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She rose to sudden literary fame eleven years after her death, in August , with Farrar, Straus and Giroux's publication of a volume of selected stories, A Manual for Cleaning Women , edited by Stephen Emerson. It hit The New York Times bestseller list in its second week,  and within a few weeks, had outsold all her previous books combined.
Berlin was born in Juneau , Alaska , and spent her childhood on the move, following her father's career as a mining engineer. The family lived in mining camps in Idaho, Montana and Arizona, and Chile, where Lucia spent most of her youth. Berlin began publishing relatively late in life, under the encouragement and sometimes tutelage of poet Ed Dorn. Her first small collection, Angels Laundromat, was published in , but her published stories were written as early as She published seventy-six stories in her lifetime.
Berlin was never a bestseller, but was widely influential within the literary community. In , a compendium of her short story work was released under the title, A Manual for Cleaning Women: Short Stories.
Throughout her life, Berlin earned a living through a series of working class jobs, reflected in story titles like "Manual for Cleaning Women," "Emergency Room Notebook, ," and "Private Branch Exchange" referring to telephone switchboards and their operators. She also took oral histories from elderly patients at Mt. Zion Hospital. Near the end of her term, she was one of four campus faculty awarded the Student Organization for Alumni Relations Award for Teaching Excellence.
She was named associate professor, and continued teaching there until Berlin has been called one of America's best kept secrets. In common with them, she writes with a guiding intelligent compassion about family, love, work; in a style that is direct, plain, clear, and non-judgmental; with a sense of humor and a gift for the gestures and the words that reveal character, the images that reveal the nature of a place.