She was born in Wetaskiwin, near Edmonton, Alberta. Her parents and her older brothers and sister had immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands a few years before she was born. She grew up bilingually, speaking English and Dutch. The immigrant experience and the Dutch background have a strong influence on her work. The search for a place that can be called "home" is an important topic in most of her writing. All of her books feature strong women who try to escape the roles that society and their families have assigned them.
Aritha van Herk has written eight books, four of which are novels. The other books are rather difficult to categorize, being a mixture of autobiography, literary criticism, history, description of place etc. The author deliberately wants to escape categorization and wants to make it difficult for critics to pidgeonhole her or her books. She published an enormous number of short-stories and critical essays and edited and co-edited numerous books. Her works has been translated into several languages.
She currently teaches Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.
Judith (1978) (won her the Seal Book Award)
The Tent Peg (1981) (story of a woman who disguises herself as a young man in order to get a job as a bush-cook for a team of geologists who work in the north of Canada)
No Fixed Address: An Amorous Journey (1986) (Story of Arachne Manteia who criss-crosses the Canadian Prairies in her black vintage Mercedes, selling underwear and finally disappearing into the Canadian north.)
Restlessness (1998) (published in 1998 is the story of Dorcas who hires a profesional killer because she is afraid to commit suicide. The story becomes a reverse Sheherazade and a close inspection of Calgary)
Non-fiction - almost Non-fiction
In Visible Ink (1991) (a collection of ficto-criticism)
A Frozen Tongue (1992) (a collection of ficto-criticism)
Places Far From Ellesmere: Explorations on Site: A Geografictione (1990) (Geografictione, combining a travel narrative of exploring the arctic island of Ellesmere and doing literary criticism of Tolstoy`s Anna Karenina)
Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta (2001) (Penguin-paperback published in 2002)