Susi Wyss
Susi Wyss Portrait Photo by Esther Wyss-Flamm

Susi Wyss and sisters

Susi (center) and her sisters smile for their neighbor’s camera on the day of their departure to Abidjan.

About the Author

Susi Wyss was born in Washington, D.C. to Swiss parents. When she turned seven, her family relocated to Abidjan, Ivory Coast for three years—a period that would have a lasting impact on her view of the world. 

After graduating from Vassar College, Susi pursued a career in international health, hoping she could make a positive difference in places like the ones she’d seen as a child. She earned a master’s degree in public health from Boston University and joined the Peace Corps, working on a child survival project in the Central African Republic. For the next 16 years, she visited and worked in more than a dozen African countries, eventually living for another three years in Abidjan. It was during this second stint in the Ivory Coast that she began writing fiction, much of it inspired by people she’d met, stories she’d heard, and experiences she’d had in Africa. 

Upon her return to the U.S., while continuing her work in international health, Susi earned a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University. She subsequently took a two-year sabbatical to write The Civilized World, a novel-in-stories set in Africa that was published by Henry Holt in April 2011.

Since completing her debut book, Susi has been balancing her creative writing with her work as an editor at Jhpiego, a Baltimore-based international health organization. Her stories, including several from The Civilized World, have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Bellevue Literary Review, Bellingham Review, and The Massachusetts Review. She has served as an associate editor for the Potomac Review, and her writing has been recognized by awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

For more information, read the author's personal reflections on the African countries where The Civilized World is set.