Virginia Sorensen facts for kids
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|Born||Virginia Louise Eggertsen
February 17, 1912
|Died||December 24, 1991|
|Alma mater||Brigham Young University|
|Notable awards||1957 Newberry Medal|
|Spouse||Frederick C. Sorensen
Virginia Louise Sorensen (née Eggertsen; February 17, 1912 – December 24, 1991), also credited as Virginia Sorenson, was an American regionalist writer. Her role in Utah and Mormon literature places her within the "lost generation" of Mormon writers. She was awarded the 1957 Newberry Medal for her children's novel, Miracles on Maple Hill.
Virginia Sorensen was born to Helen ElDiva Blackett and Claud E. Eggertsen in Provo, Utah, but grew up in Manti and American Fork, Utah. Her mother identified as a Christian Scientist, and her father was described as a "Jack Mormon." Because of this, Sorensen wrote from a liminal position between Mormon and mainstream western American life. Of this circumstance, Sorensen said of her siblings and herself, "We all felt obliged to be especially good and bright because our parents weren't active church people." From an early age, Sorensen wrote poetry and told stories to friends and family.
Sorensen attended Brigham Young University, where she met her first husband, Frederick C. Sorensen, who taught English at a local high school. She graduated from BYU with a bachelor's degree in journalism. The couple moved several times throughout their 25 years of marriage for Frederick's work. While living in Terre Haute, Indiana, where Frederick was a professor at what is now Indiana State University, Sorensen published her first novel, A Little Lower Than the Angels. Her publisher, Alfred Knopf, wrote in the book jacket, "I have seldom introduced a new novelist with the confidence I feel in the author of this remarkable book. It marks the debut, I believe, of a major American writer." The novel approached the history of Mormon polygamy with realism which was poorly received in Utah, despite the novel doing well elsewhere in America. "She sought to please her...Mormon contemporaries, yet was surprised to find her efforts tarred with suspicion", wrote her biographer, Mary L. Bradford.
Sorensen wrote several Mormon-themed books. Despite this, Sorensen said of herself, "As a writer and as a person, I can honestly say that I am not particularly interested in Mormons.” As a regionalist author, she primarily drew inspiration from the places where she was living and often based her characters directly on people she knew or had met. Her first book for children, Curious Missy, grew out of her efforts helping her county in Alabama obtain a bookmobile, and her 1957 John Newbery Medal-winning Miracles on Maple Hill was based in the Erie, Pennsylvania region where she lived at that time. She received two Guggenheim fellowships, one in 1946 to study a tribe of Mexican Indians for her novel The Proper Gods, and one in 1954 to study in Denmark the history of Sanpete Valley's settlers. Her collection of short stories, Where Nothing is Long Ago, was described by Eugene England as "essentially a collection of personal essays rather than short stories," but Sorenson reaffirmed that the collection is fictional. From 1966 to 1967, Sorensen was writer-in-residence at University of Central Oklahoma.
Sorensen had two children with her first husband: Frederick Sorensen Jr. and Elizabeth Sorensen Herbert. In 1958 she divorced Frederick, and in 1969 married author Alec Waugh at the Rock of Gibraltar. She later converted to Anglicanism at Waugh's request. Sorensen and Waugh lived primarily in Morocco but moved back to the states when Alec's health began to fail in 1980.
After Alec died, Sorensen moved to North Carolina, where she died at the age of 79. Her ashes were buried in the Provo Cemetery, next to her mother and sister.
In 1991, Sorensen was granted an Honorary Lifetime Membership in the Association for Mormon Letters.
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