Virginia Sorensen

Utah’s first John Newbery Medal winner, Virginia Sorensen was born Virginia Eggertsen in Provo, Utah, in 1912.  Sorenson grew up un Manti, Utah, graduating from American Fork High School and Brigham Young University in 1934. She went on to study at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and Stanford University. Along with her husband, Frederick Sorensen, Virginia Sorenson traveled and moved often, living in Terre Haute, Indiana, as well as Denver, Colorado; Auburn, Washington; and Edinboro, Pennsylvania. After divorcing her husband, Sorensen married the English writer Alec Waugh and the two moved to Morocco, where they lived from 1967 to 1980, before moving back to the States.

Sorensen’s interests as a writer at times reflect her Mormon cultural upbringing and her fascination with Mormon history. Her first novel, A Little Lower Than the Angels (1942), examines the origins of polygamy in Nauvoo. It was critically very well received and caused Alfred Knopf, Sorensen’s publisher, to write that "[it] mark[ed] the debut… of a major American writer."  

Other novels by Sorensen such as On This Star (1946), The Evening and the Morning (1949), Many Heavens (1954) and Where Nothing is Long Ago (1963) center upon the conflict between unconventional individuals and the small-town Mormon societies in which they live.

Sorenson received two Guggenheim fellowships, the first to fund her research for the novel, The Proper Gods (1951), which depicts the life of an assimilated Yaqui Indian man struggling to reconnect with his tribal traditions. The second fellowship enabled Sorenson to finish a historical novel about Danish converts to Mormonism in Sanpete Valley in the 1850’s. The novel, Kingdom Come, was published in 1960. Her other adult novels were The Neighbors (1947) and The Man with the Key (1974).

Sorensen wrote nine novels for adults and wrote seven books for children, including Curious Missy (1953), the Child Study Award-Winning Plain Girl (1955) about the Amish community of Pennsylvania, and Miracles on Maple Hill (1957) for which she received the prestigious John Newbery Medal of the American Library Association.

Virginia Sorensen died December 24, 1991. 



For adults

  • A Little Lower than the Angels, Knopf, 1942
  • On this Star, Reynal & Hitchcock, 1946
  • The Neighbors, Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947
  • The Evening and The Morning, Harcourt, Brace, 1949
  • The Proper Gods, Harcourt, Brace, 1952
  • Many Heavens, Harcourt & Brace, 1954
  • Kingdom Come, Harcourt & Brace, 1960
  • Where Nothing is Long Ago, Harcourt & Brace, 1963
  • The Man with the Key, Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich, 1974

For children

  • Curious Missy, Harcourt Brace, 1953
  • The House Next Door: Utah 1896, Scribners, 1954
  • Plain Girl, Harcourt Brace, Child Study Award, 1955
  • Miracles on Maple Hill, Harcourt Brace, Child Study Award and the John Newbery Medal, 1957
  • Lotte's Locket, Harcourt Brace, 1964
  • Around the Corner, Harcourt Brace, 1973
  • Friends of the Road, Atheneum, 1978

Additional Info

  • Region: Wasatch Front
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Tags: Devotional, Women, Children's Literature