Tobias Wolff was born in Birmingham, Ala. Wolff’s parents separated when he was four, and he moved to Florida with his mother. Six years later, they moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, and then to Seattle, Wash. After Wolff’s mother remarried, they moved to a small town several hours north of Seattle. Wolff’s step-father was abusive, and, in response, Wolff engaged in rebellious behavior. At age fifteen, Wolff spent a summer living with his older brother at their father’s home in the San Diego area. His brother encouraged Wolff in his ambition to become a writer and gave him daily assignments in literature and creative writing. The following year, Wolff used forged documents to obtain a scholarship to the Hill School, a Pennsylvania preparatory school. He was expelled in his senior year for poor academic performance and spent four years in the US Army. He was stationed in Vietnam the last year of his Army service. After his discharge, Wolff traveled to England and decided to enroll at Oxford University. He earned BA and MA degrees in English language and literature in 1972 and 1975, respectively. While in England, Wolff published a novel, Ugly Rumours.
On his return to the United States, Wolff briefly worked as a reporter at The Washington Post before moving to California, where he held a Wallace Stegner fellowship at Stanford University in 1975 and 1976. Wolff’s first published short story, “Smokers,” appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1976. Wolff earned an MA at Stanford University in 1978. He taught briefly at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., and at Arizona State University before joining the faculty at Syracuse University, where he taught for seventeen years. In 1981, Wolff published In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, a short story collection. Since then, Wolff has published additional story collections, two memoirs, and another novel. A motion picture version of This Boy’s Life was released in 1993. Wolff has received grants from the Mary Roberts Rinehart Fund and the Lila Wallace-Readers’ Digest Foundation, as well as fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1997, Wolff returned to Stanford University, where he is the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences.
Tobias Wolfe writes short stories, novels, and memoirs. Major subjects of his work include moral choice, commitment to family, and the creation of identity.
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Photo by Marion Ettlinger; courtesy of Bloomsbury.
Last updated on May 30, 2008.