This Goodly Land

Virginia Sorensen (February 17, 1912–December 24, 1991)

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Biographical Information

Virginia Sorensen was born in Provo, Utah. Her family moved to Manti, Utah, when she was five and to American Fork, Utah, when she was thirteen. She read extensively when she was growing up and was on the yearbook and newspaper staffs when she was in high school. She studied journalism at Brigham Young University and the University of Missouri, earning a BS degree from Brigham Young in 1934. After graduation, Sorensen and her family moved to Palo Alto, Calif., so that her husband could attend graduate school at Stanford University. After he finished his studies, Sorensen and her family moved frequently. From 1938 until the late 1950s, they lived in Terre Haute, Ind., East Lansing, Mich., Auburn, Ala., and Edinboro, Pa., while Sorensen's husband pursued a career teaching college English. For some of this time, Sorensen's mother-in-law was living with them, providing childcare that allowed her time to write. Sorensen's first novel, A Little Lower Than the Angels, was published in 1942.

From 1942 to 1978, Sorensen published eight novels for adults, seven books for children, and a collection of stories about her childhood. She received two Guggenheim Fellowships to do research in Mexico (1946) and in Denmark (1954). In 1954, she also spent time in residence at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire where she met the writer Alec Waugh. Sorensen's marriage failed in the late 1950s, and she and her husband were divorced. In the late 1960s, she and Waugh were both writers-in-residence at Central State College (now University of Central Oklahoma) in Edmond, Okla. In 1969, Sorensen and Waugh married in Gibraltar. They traveled extensively and made their home in Tangier, Morocco. The couple moved back to the United States in 1980 when Waugh's health began to fail. They lived in Tampa, Fla., near Sorensen's daughter and her family. When Waugh died in 1981, Sorensen moved to Hendersonville, N.C. She died there of cancer in 1991. A television movie version of her novel On This Star (published in 1946) was broadcast in 1996 as A Loss of Innocence.

Interests and Themes

Most of Virginia Sorensen's adult novels feature characters who are Mormons. Many take place in historical time periods. The settings of all her books are places where she lived or visited (Curious Missie is set in Alabama).

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Photo courtesy of Signature Books.

Last updated on Dec 12, 2009.

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