He grew up in the High Sierra town of Sierra City, population 225. His father was a carpenter and stone mason, and his mother was a home-maker and a substitute teacher. Ostrom graduated from Roseville High School (California) in 1971, attended Sierra College in Rocklin (California), and earned a B.A. with honors in English at the University of California, Davis. At Davis, he went on to earn an M.A. and a Ph.D. in English, completing a dissertation on British Romantic Verse Satire in 1982 [DAI 44, no. 01A (1982): 0177.] While at Davis he took creative writing classes from Karl Shapiro (1913-2000), a Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet. In 1980-81 Ostrom was a Visiting Lecturer in American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany.
He joined the English Department at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, in 1983. He is Professor of English at Puget Sound, and he has served as co-director of African American Studies and Chair of the English Department.
Ostrom is author of A Langston Hughes Encyclopedia (Greenwood Publishers, 2002) and editor, with J. David Macey, of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature, 5 volumes (Greenwood Publishers, 2005; he also contributed 37 entries to that encyclopeida. With Wendy Bishop (1953-2003), with whom he was a student at U.C. Davis, and Katharine Haake, he wrote the textbook Metro: Journeys in Writing Creatively (Longman, 2001).
Ostrom has been publishing poetry and short fiction in British and American magazines since the late 1970s. He is also author of the poetry chapbook, Subjects Apprehended (Pudding House Press, 2000), and The Coast Starlight: Collected Poems 1976-2006 appeared in 2006 (Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishers). In 1992 he published a book of criticism about the short fiction of Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes (1902-1967): Langston Hughes: A Study of the Short Fiction (Twayne, 1992). In 1990, Ostrom's detective novel, Three To Get Ready, was published by Cliffhanger Press in Oakland, California.
Ostrom was a Fulbright Senior Lecturer at Uppsala University in Sweden in 1994. Ostrom has published articles on British writers William Blake and George Meredith, and he contributed entries to the New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. At the University of Puget Sound, he has taught courses in creative writing, literature, and rhetoric. He has also taught courses on detective fiction, the Harlem Renaissance, and contemporary American poetry. A recent novel by Ostrom is Honoring Juanita (2010).
"Hans Ostrom," Contemporary Authors, New Series, Vol. 43 (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998)
Choice, December, 1993, review of Langston Hughes: A Study of the Short Fiction, p. 605
S. A. Vega Garcia, Choice,October, 2002, review of A Langston Hughes Encyclopedia, p. 257
Review of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature, Library Journal 2005
Review of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature, School Library Journal, March 2005
"Hans Ostrom," in Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers (New York: Poets and Writers, 1998-present)
Wendy Bishop, Thirteen Ways of Looking for a Poem (New York: Longman, 1999); includes several poems by Ostrom
Will Hochman, "The Ongoing Legacy of Wendy Bishop Is In Our Stories: Review of The Subject is Story: Essays for Writers and Readers," edited by Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrom," Across the Disciplines: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Language, Literature, and Writing (2004): http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/reviews/bishop_ostrom2004.cfm
David Herbert Donald, "Good Race Men: Review of Short Stories of Langston Hughes," New York Times, September 1, 1996: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DE3D71E39F932A3575AC0A960958260
Greenwood Press: Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature (2005), edited by Hans Ostrom and J David Macey: excerpts from multiple reviews: http://www.greenwood.com/catalog/GR2972.aspx
ERIC abstract of Colors of a Different Horse: Rethinking Creative Writing Theory and Pedagogy, edited by Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrom: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED366967&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=eric_accno&accno=ED366967>
Law and Society in the 21st Century: conference held at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, July 2007.
Rita Dove, "Poet's Choice," Washington Post (Column by Rita Dove), May 20, 2001, includes "Emily Dickinson and Elvis Presley in Heaven," a poem by Hans Ostrom.