Winner, James Webb Award for Distinguished Fiction
"Roxana Robinson’s new novel, Sparta, which takes us deep inside the troubled head of a Marine returning from four years of active duty in Iraq, really is a tour de force…Although too carefully wrought to be called improvised, Robinson’s powerful novel demonstrates that fiction actually can function as a sort of explosive device."
— Heller Mcalpin, The Washington Post
Each fall, I teach “Madame Bovary” to my graduate writing students at Hunter College, and each fall I read it with them. My course is called Introduction to the Modern: The Role of Compassion. So we look at modernism, and how it disrupts the literary world, and at compassion, and how it expands the soul. I ask my students a fundamental question about intention: Does Flaubert want us to feel contempt or compassion for his characters?
What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?
The need for empathy. Empathy enlarges the writer’s understanding, engages the reader, and widens the story…
Roxana Robinson is the author of nine books: five novels, including Cost; three collections of short stories; and the biography Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, BookForum, Best American Short Stories, Tin House and elsewhere. She teaches in the Hunter MFA Program and divides her time between New York, Connecticut, and Maine. She has received fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. She was President of the Authors Guild from 2014-2017