Stuart Dybek was born on April 10, 1942, in Chicago, the son of Stanley and Adeline Sala Dybek. He grew up in a working-class, ethnic neighborhood, a milieu that figures prominently in his writing. After graduating from a Catholic high school, he enrolled at Loyola University, but he interrupted his education to work in the Civil Rights and antiwar movements of the early 1960’s. He earned a B.A. from Loyola in 1964 and an M.A. in 1968. He married Caren Bassett in 1966.
After working as a case worker with the Cook County Department of Public Aid, teaching in a Chicago-area elementary school, and teaching high school on the island of St. Thomas as a VISTA volunteer, Dybek returned to school. He earned an M.F.A. degree from the prestigious University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1973. In 1974, he began teaching English and creative writing at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He served as a visiting professor at Princeton University in 1990 and began teaching in the Warren Wilson M.F.A. program for writers in 1985.
Dybek’s first book-length publication was his collection of poetry and prose poems, Brass Knuckles. His first collection of short stories, Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, published in 1980, was well received by the critics. Likewise, his second collection, The Coast of Chicago (1990), received considerable critical praise. Since the mid-1970’s, Dybek has published a steady stream of stories in such important journals as Ploughshares and TriQuarterly and such popular magazines as The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly.