Who is Ursula Hegi?
She was born Ursula Koch in 1946 in Düsseldorf, Germany, a city that was heavily bombed during World War II. Her perception growing up was that the war was avoided as a topic of discussion despite its evidence everywhere, and The Holocaust was a particularly taboo topic. This had a strong effect on her later writing and her feelings about her German identity.
She left West Germany in 1964, at the age of 18. She moved to the United States in 1965, where she married in 1967 and became a naturalized citizen the same year. In 1979, she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with both a bachelor's and master's degree. She was divorced in 1984. The same year, she was hired at Eastern Washington University, in Spokane, Washington, where she became an Associate Professor and taught creative writing and contemporary literature.
Hegi's first books were set in the United States. She set her third, Floating in My Mother's Palm, in the fictional German town of "Burgdorf," using her writing to explore her conflicted feelings about her German heritage. She used the setting for three more books, including her best selling novel Stones from the River, which was chosen for Oprah's Book Club in 1997. Hegi appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on April 8, and her publisher reprinted 1.5 million hardcover copies and 500,000 paperbacks. She subsequently moved from Spokane to New York.