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Heidi W. Durrow

Bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, Winner of the Bellwether Prize

A newspaper story about a girl who was the sole survivor of a family tragedy was the inspiration for Heidi Durrow’s THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY, a first novel that won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Literature of Social Change. The book received rave reviews, was on numerous “Best of the Year” lists for 2010, and was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback; it now has over 170,000 copies in print. Heidi is also the cohost of the award-winning weekly podcast Mixed Chicks Chat and the cofounder and coproducer of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival in Los Angeles, an annual free public event that celebrates multiracial stories.

Heidi was haunted by the story of the little girl who lost her family and decided to imagine a life for her in the aftermath of this tragedy, giving her a voice and writing a future for her. “Since I didn’t know anything about the girl, I filled in what I did know from my experience,” Heidi says, “so Rachel, like me, is half African American and half Danish.” In THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY she finally found a way to write about the issues that galvanize her: biracial and bicultural identity, racial and class borders, mothering and womanhood. “The Girl Who Fell from the Sky can actually fly,” wrote the New York Times. “Its energy comes from its vividly realized characters . . . Durrow has a terrific ear for dialogue, an ability to summon a wealth of hopes and fears in a single line.” The novel is already a book club favorite and a community reads choice.

Originally from Portland, Oregon, Heidi Durrow is the daughter of an African American G.I. father and a white Danish mother. Growing up in a traveling military family without great resources, she was the first in her family to go to a four-year college. She is a graduate of Stanford University, Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and Yale Law School. Heidi has worked as a corporate litigator at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and as a life skills trainer to professional athletes of the National Football League and National Basketball Association. She is an occasional essay contributor to National Public Radio.

She is the recipient of a Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Writers, and a Jentel Foundation Residency and won top honors in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition and the Chapter One Fiction Contest. She has received grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the Roth Endowment, and the American Antiquarian Society, as well as the Norman Mailer Writers' Colony and the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference. She has spoken at literary groups, colleges and universities, and author series across the country.

Speaking Topics

  • The Girl Who Fell from the Sky: Blending Real Life and Personal History into Fiction
  • What ARE You? The Language of Biracial Identity and Multiculturalism
  • Finding a Voice, Telling a Story: The Creative Life


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