Roberta Silman on holiday with her family in 2007.

Biography

Roberta Silman’s first published story, "A Bad Baby,” was in The New Yorker in 1973 and won the National Magazine Award for Fiction. After publishing more stories in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Redbook, McCall’s, Hadassah, The Virginia Quarterly Review and many other magazines and quarterlies and anthologies here and abroad, Ms. Silman went on to publish Blood Relations, a story collection (Atlantic-Little, Brown), three novels, Boundaries (Atlantic-Little, Brown, Avon paperback, in England Sidgwick & Jackson), The Dream Dredger (Persea Books), Beginning The World Again, A Novel of Los Alamos (Viking), and a children’s book, Somebody Else’s Child (Frederick Warne, Dell Yearling Paperback). She has completed another novel, Secrets and Shadows, and a second story collection, Souls in Motion. Her newest novel is Nothing Was Simple.

Born in Brooklyn, NY on December 29, 1934, Roberta Karpel moved to Long Island when she was seven and received her B.A. with honors (Phi Beta Kappa) from Cornell University in 1956. Three days after graduation she married Robert Silman, and they went on to have three children.

She began writing as the assistant to the Science Editor at The Saturday Review Magazine in the late '50s while her husband got his second Bachelors Degree in engineering. Ms. Silman was one of the first women science writers and could have continued in journalism, but she was passionate about writing fiction. When her first child was born in 1961, she wrote her first short story, "Wedding Day." She worked for the next ten years on her own, then applied in 1972 to the graduate writing program at Sarah Lawrence where she worked with Grace Paley and Jane Cooper and started to publish while there. She received her MFA in 1975.

A recipient of both a Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEA Fellowship, she has won the National Magazine Award for Fiction twice -- once in 1974 (above) and again in 1984, two other stories were winners in the PEN Syndicated Fiction project, two were read at Symphony Space and on NPR’s Selected Shorts, and several have been cited in Best American Short Stories. A story, “Without Wendy,” was published in The American Scholar in Spring 2009 and her remembrance of Grace Paley, “The Swiveling Light of Truth,” was published there in the Autumn of 2008. Her reviews and Op Ed pieces have appeared in The New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Observer and she reviews regularly for The Boston Globe and the online sites: The ArtsFuse and World Books PRI.

Somebody Else’s Child won the Child Study Association Award, Blood Relations won honorable mention for both the PEN Hemingway Prize and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Boundaries won honorable mention for the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, The Dream Dredger and Beginning the World Again won Washington Irving Awards. Boundaries was optioned for a movie by Linda Lavin but was never made.

Ms. Silman has served on the New York and Massachusetts fiction panels and has given workshops and readings at many universities and libraries. She’s a member of PEN where she served for several years on the Freedom to Write Committee, and of the Authors Guild. She also served for many years on the Advisory Council for the College of Arts & Sciences at Cornell University.

Ms. Silman and her husband, Robert Silman, a structural engineer, live in Boston, MA. Their children are all married and they have several grandchildren.

Selected Works

Short Stories
Direct, compelling, painfully honest, these moving stories dig deep beneath the surface of family life.
Novel
Tender, affecting novel that explores the pain of loss, and, in its wake, the arduous task of building anew, Boundaries reveals Roberta Silman's rich, absorbing perception of the priorities, the limitless reaches, and the insistence, of love.
A complex tale of joy, loss, and madness which ends in mysterious drowning.
A novel about the women whose husbands went to Los Alamos to make the atomic bomb.
Children's Book
A children's book about adoption.
The book concentrates on Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. It also deals briefly with contemporary physicists and astronomers.