Douglas Unger

Photo by John H. Irsfeld

Born in Moscow, Idaho, Douglas Unger studied abroad in Argentina and Germany, and received his undergraduate degree in General Studies in the Humanities from the University of Chicago in 1973. He earned his MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1977.

He has worked as a photographer for a weekly newspaper chain then briefly for UPI, as an arts journalist and theatre critic for “The Bellingham Herald,” and as a screenwriter and story consultant, earning Writers’ Guild membership.

He was Managing Editor of  The Chicago Review, an editorial assistant at The Iowa Review, an essayist for the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, and currently serves on the Executive Boards of Words Without Borders, Point of Contact/Punto de Contacto, and as an advisory editor for The Americas Literary Initiative (TALI) at The University of Wisconsin Press, now at Texas Tech University Press.

He has taught at universities in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay on a Fulbright Comparative Literature Fellowship, and has guest lectured or taught at more than 30 universities or arts institutes in the Spanish-speaking world. Doug taught literature and creative writing at Syracuse University for eight years before joining the faculty of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1991, where he co-founded the graduate Creative Writing International program, serving as its founding director then again as director for a four year term, and from 2007-2009, he served as Chair of the Department of English at UNLV.

Awards include the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, Nevada Board of Regents Creative Activities Award, the Nevada Silver Pen Award, a State of Washington Governor’s Writer Award, the Society of Midland Authors Award for Fiction, a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Special Citation, a Fulbright Comparative Literature Fellowship, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.

His short story “Leslie and Sam,” was short-listed for the 2002 O. Henry Award and named a distinguished story in Best American Short Stories 2002.  His first novel, Leaving the Land, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and his fourth novel, Voices from Silence, was a year’s end selection of  “The Washington Post Book World” and was re-published in France with a new closing chapter in 2008 with the title Mes frères de sang by Daniel Arsand/Editions Phebus. He currently is at work completing two novels in progress, and the revisions on two screenplays.

A bookstore clerk once introduced him at a reading by saying, “Doug Unger may be a minor writer, but he’s one of the most major minor writers in America.” Doug’s first instinct was to call an old friend in Vegas and send a leg-breaker after the guy. Then after thinking about it for a while, he ended up profoundly grateful the clerk had said anything at all. His conclusion: “It’s freer and better to be known as writing from the margins than in any mainstream.”


Looking for War and Other Stories (Ontario Review Press/Persea/W.W. Norton, 2004)

Voices from Silence (A Wyatt book for St. Martin’s Press, 1995, Daniel Arsand/Editions Phebus, Paris, 2008 as Mes frères de sang)

The Turkey War (Harper & Row, 1988, Ballantine Books, 1991)

El Yanqui (Harper & Row, 1986, Ballantine Books, 1988)

Leaving the Land (Harper & Row, 1984, Ballantine Books, 1985, Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press, 1995), finalist for the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and Robert F. Kennedy Award

Find out more about Douglas