Gina Berriault was born in Long Beach California, on New Year's day 1926, the youngest of three children of Russian Jewish immigrant parents. "My father was mentor for my spirit," she said in an interview for The Literary Review. "A freelance writer, he had on of those old, stand-up high typewriters. I began to write on that typewriter when I was in grammar school. In an essay for The Confidence Woman, Gina Berriault recalls her mother sitting by her little radio, listening to serial romances and waving her hand before her eyes, hoping to see it take shape out of the dark. "I was fourteen or so when the dark began to close in, and when I began to write did I expect to bring a shape, a meaning, even a reason-for-being from out of the dark?"
Gina Berriault's stories have appeared in many magazines and literary journals, including Esquire, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Harper's Bazaar, Mademoiselle and The Threepenny Review.
Gina Berriault wrote stories, novels and screenplays for more than three decades. The author of four novels, The Descent , A Conference of Victims , The Son , and The Lights of Earth , Ms. Berriault has also published three collections of short stories: The Mistress and Other Stories , The Infinite Passion of Expectation: Twenty-five Stories , and Women in Their Beds: New & Selected Stories , which won the PEN/Faulkner Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award. Her story "The Stone Boy" was made into a film for which she wrote the script.
She taught writing at the Iowa Writer's Workshop and San Francisco State University. She also received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Ingram-Merrill Fellowship, a Commonwealth Gold Medal for Literature, the Pushcart Prize and several O'Henry prizes.
While most of her stories take place in or around San Francisco, they cover a wide range of characters, settings and subjects. In an interview for The Literary Review, Gina Berriault described the short story's appeal to her as a writer: "short stories and some short novels are close to poetry - with the fewest words they capture the essence of a situation, of a human being. It's like trying to pin down the eternal moment." Ms. Berriault died at her home in California in July 1999.
In selecting Gina Berriault, the 1997 Rea Award Jurors, Cynthia Ozick, Tobias Wolff, and Andre Dubus said:
"Gina Berriault is one of America's most accomplished masters of short fiction. Her stories astonish - not only in their range of character and incident, but in their worldliness, their swift and surprising turns, their penetration into palpable love and grief and hope. Her sentences are excitingly, startlingly juxtaposed; and though her language is plain, the complexity of her knowing leads one into mysteries deeper than tears. To discover Berriault is to voyage into uncharted amazements."