Amy Hempel (b. 1951) was born in Chicago and spent her early years in California. Some of her unhappy experiences as a struggling writer in New York as well as the deaths of family members provide much of the material for Reasons to Live, a collection of stories set in California, which grew out of a fiction workshop she attended at Columbia University in 1982. In many of these stories, her protagonists struggle against the alienating culture of California. Her collections of stories include At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom and Tumble Home. She has edited, with Jim Shepard, Unleashed: Poems by Writers' Dogs.

"I am really interested in resilience," Hempel recently told an interviewer. "Dr. Christiaan Barnard said, 'Suffering isn't ennobling, recovery is.' If I have a motto for this particular bunch of stories, that's what it is."