Harry Mark Petrakis

Novelist, short story writer, essayist and teacher

Harry Mark Petrakis was born in St Louis and raised in Chicago, the fifth of six children of a Greek Orthodox priest and his wife immigrated to this country from Crete, Greece in 1916 to minister to a community of young immigrant coal miners in Price, Utah. At twelve he would be bedridden for two years with tuberculosis, a span of inactivity that helped him become a voracious reader and developed a life-long fascination with stories. He began writing his own stories in his early twenties and submitted manuscripts for ten years until he sold his first story, Pericles on 31st Street, to the Atlantic at Christmas 1956. His first novel Lion at My Heart was published in 1959. Since then he has lived as a free-lancer, writing novels, essays and stories, in addition lecturing and teaching and, in the old Bardic tradition, reading his stories to college and club audiences

He has twice been nominated for the National Book Award in Fiction, has won a number of literary awards including the Carl Sandburg Award and the Society of Midland Author’s Award, For two years in the 1970s he served as Writer-in-Residence for the Chicago Public Library, setting up writing workshops at various city libraries That tenure was followed by two years as Writer-in-Residence for the Chicago Board of Education when he visited 63 elementary, middle-school and high schools to speak on storytelling. In the 1970s he held the McGuffey Visiting Lectureship at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and in the 1990s the Kazantzakis Chair in Modern Greek Studies at San Francisco State University. He has adapted his work for film and television. He holds Honorary Doctorates from half a dozen universities including the American College of Greece in Athens, Greece. In 2014 his 24th book, a Memoir titled Song of my Life was published. He has been married to Diana Perparos for seventy years. They have three sons, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

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