2016 PEN Faulkner Award Winner

The 2016 PEN/Faulkner award winner is James Hannaham for his novel Delicious Foods.

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

“Delicious Foods is at once a sweeping American tale of race and exploitation, a darkly comedic thriller, and an intimate portrayal of a troubled mother and her damaged son. The narrative follows the lives of Darlene, a woman left ruined after the traumatic death of her husband; Eddie, her young son; and Scotty, crack cocaine personified, who threatens to destroy them both. After Darlene’s husband, a black civil activist, is murdered in a sleepy town in Louisiana, it is not long before Darlene’s grief drives her to drugs. Once she embarks on this dangerous path, crack addiction soon becomes sole motivating force of Darlene’s life, driving her into de facto enslavement at a farm called Delicious Foods. Hannaham is unafraid of the complex and the horrible, and yet his novel shines in its intimate details. Praising the novel in the New York Times, Ted Genoways writes, “The novel’s finest moments are…in the singular way that Hannaham can make the commonplace spring to life with nothing more than astute observation and precise language.””

You can read the PEN/Faulkner award winner announcement.  You can also have a look at the rest of the 2016 finalists.

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2016 PEN Faulkner Finalists

The 2016 PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction finalists include five authors who I personally haven’t heard of before so this is a nice opportunity to discover some new reading.  Here are the 2016 finalists:

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

“Darlene, a young widow and mother devastated by the death of her husband, turns to drugs to erase the trauma. In this fog of grief, she is lured with the promise of a great job to a mysterious farm run by a shady company, with disastrous consequences for both her and her eleven-year-old son, Eddie–left behind in a panic-stricken search for her.  Delicious Foods tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. In Darlene’s haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, and in the efforts of both to triumph over those who would enslave them, Hannaham’s daring and shape-shifting prose not only infuses their desperate circumstances with grace and humor, but also wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom.” (GoodReads)

Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya

“Ifi and Job, a Nigerian couple in an arranged marriage, begin their lives together in Nebraska with a single, outrageous lie: that Job is a doctor, not a college dropout. Unwittingly, Ifi becomes his co-conspirator—that is until his first wife, Cheryl, whom he married for a green card years ago, reenters the picture and upsets Job’s tenuous balancing act.  Julie Iromuanya has short stories and novel excerpts appearing or forthcoming in the Kenyon Review, Passages North, the Cream City Review, and the Tampa Review, among other journals. She is a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Mr. and Mrs. Doctor is her first novel.”  (GoodReads)

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

“A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties.  It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.” (GoodReads)

Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent

“Beginning in the 1980s, Elizabeth Tallent’s work, appeared in some of our most prestigious literary publications, including The New Yorker, Esquire, and Harper’s. Marked by its quiet power and emotional nuance, her fiction garnered widespread praise.  Now, at long last, Tallent returns with a new collection of diverse, thematically linked, and deeply powerful stories that confirm her enduring gift for capturing relationships at their moment of transformation: marriages breaking apart, people haunted by memories of old love and reaching haltingly toward new futures. Mendocino Fire explore moments of fracture and fragmentation; it limns the wilderness of our inner psyche and brilliantly evokes the electric tension of deep emotion. In these pages, Tallent explores expectations met and thwarted, and our never-ending quest to avoid being alone.  With this breathtaking collection, Elizabeth Tallent cements her rightful place in the literary pantheon beside her contemporaries Lorrie Moore, Ann Beattie, and Louise Erdrich. Visceral and surprising, profound yet elemental, Mendocino Fire is a welcome visit with a wise and familiar friend.”  (GoodReads)

The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea

“From one of America’s preeminent literary voices comes a new story collection that proves once again why the writing of Luis Alberto Urrea has been called “wickedly good” (Kansas City Star), “cinematic and charged” (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and “studded with delights” (Chicago Tribune). Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Urrea reveals his mastery of the short form. This collection includes the Edgar-award winning “Amapola” and his now-classic “Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses,” which had the honor of being chosen for NPR’s “Selected Shorts” not once but twice. Suffused with wanderlust, compassion, and no small amount of rock and roll, THE WATER MUSEUM is a collection that confirms Luis Alberto Urrea as an American master.” (GoodReads)

Have you read any of these authors or these books?  I’d love to hear what you recommend (or not).

 

2015 Pen Faulkner Fiction Award Winner

The winner of the 2015 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction is Atticus Lish for his novel Preparation for the Next Life.  In my post revealing the shortlist for this award in March I included the cover image of this book that the Pen/Faulkner Award are using but I went over to GoodReads to check this book out and found an alternative cover that I think is much more attractive.  I’m quite a fan of fiction about interesting characters facing and hopefully overcoming life’s hurdles and this book looks to fit that description.

The people over at Pen/Faulkner described the winning book:

Preparation for the Next Life“Atticus Lish’s Preparation for the Next Life is a document of the undocumented and an unlikely love story between a Chinese Muslim immigrant, Zou Lei, and a traumatized Iraq War veteran, Skinner. Skinner comes to New York after a disastrous tour in Iraq, looking for a party, “holding to the idea that if he partied hard enough, he’d eventually succeed in having a good time and would start wanting to live again.” Zou Lei comes to New York fresh from a deportation scare in order to, “stay where everybody was illegal just like her and get lost in the crowd.” When they cross paths in a food court, they fall into a relationship haunted by Zou Lei’s fear of deportation and the symptoms of Skinner’s post-traumatic stress disorder. There is little, it seems, either can do to save the other. Preparation for the Next Life forces readers to look squarely at a host of the failures plaguing contemporary American society. Lish’s prose is dogged and steadfast as he describes his characters’ raw reality and the desperate lives they struggle to lead. Praising the novel in The Nation, Madison Smartt Bell writes: “The members of our polymorphous underclasses most often appear as statistics; in presenting a few of them as individuals, Lish offers his audience a salubrious shock.”

Go over to the Pen/Faulkner website to read more.

2015 PEN Faulkner Award Finalists

The Pen/Faulkner shortlist for 2015 was released on the 10th of this month.  The shortlist is made up of books quite distinct from one another.  You can read more about the shortlisted authors and their novels here. One book that has definitely been making waves with readers is Mandel’s Station Eleven but you never know, we may be surprised by the winner.

Here is the shortlist with book blurbs from GoodReads:

Song of the ShankSong of the Shank by Jeffery Renard Allen

At the heart of this remarkable novel is Thomas Greene Wiggins, a nineteenth-century slave and improbable musical genius who performed under the name Blind Tom.  Song of the Shank opens in 1866 as Tom and his guardian, Eliza Bethune, struggle to adjust to their fashionable apartment in the city in the aftermath of riots that had driven them away a few years before. But soon a stranger arrives from the mysterious island of Edgemere—inhabited solely by African settlers and black refugees from the war and riots—who intends to reunite Tom with his now-liberated mother.  As the novel ranges from Tom’s boyhood to the heights of his performing career, the inscrutable savant is buffeted by opportunistic teachers and crooked managers, crackpot healers and militant prophets. In his symphonic novel, Jeffery Renard Allen blends history and fantastical invention to bring to life a radical cipher, a man who profoundly changes all who encounter him. (GoodReads)

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer ClementPrayers for the Stolen

Ladydi Garcia Martínez is fierce, funny and smart. She was born into a world where being a girl is a dangerous thing. In the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, women must fend for themselves, as their men have left to seek opportunities elsewhere. Here in the shadow of the drug war, bodies turn up on the outskirts of the village to be taken back to the earth by scorpions and snakes. School is held sporadically, when a volunteer can be coerced away from the big city for a semester. In Guerrero the drug lords are kings, and mothers disguise their daughters as sons, or when that fails they “make them ugly” – cropping their hair, blackening their teeth- anything to protect them from the rapacious grasp of the cartels. And when the black SUVs roll through town, Ladydi and her friends burrow into holes in their backyards like animals, tucked safely out of sight.  While her mother waits in vain for her husband’s return, Ladydi and her friends dream of a future that holds more promise than mere survival, finding humor, solidarity and fun in the face of so much tragedy. When Ladydi is offered work as a nanny for a wealthy family in Acapulco, she seizes the chance, and finds her first taste of love with a young caretaker there. But when a local murder tied to the cartel implicates a friend, Ladydi’s future takes a dark turn. Despite the odds against her, this spirited heroine’s resilience and resolve bring hope to otherwise heartbreaking conditions. (GoodReads)

Preparation for the Next LifePreparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish

Zou Lei, orphan of the desert, migrates to work in America and finds herself slaving in New York’s kitchens. She falls in love with a young man whose heart has been broken in another desert. A new life may be possible if together they can survive homelessness, lockup, and the young man’s nightmares, which may be more prophecy than madness. (GoodReads)

Station Eleven by Emily St John MandelStation Eleven

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.  Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave. (GoodReads)

Dept. of SpeculationDept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Jenny Offill’s heroine, referred to in these pages as simply “the wife,” once exchanged love letters with her husband, postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophesa colicky baby, bedbugs, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions—the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it, as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art. (GoodReads)

You can read the official press release here.  Winners will be announced on 7 April 2015.

2014 PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction

The 2014 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction went to:

Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

In the words of judge Manuel Muñoz, “This superb novel is not only comic and smart, it packs a surprising emotional punch. Fowler captures an altogether new dimension of themeaning and heartbreak of family dynamics.”

Judge Madison Smartt Bell adds, “This is a book that really does tell us something new about what it is to be human and what it is not to be.”

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.  Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man.  And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined. (read more on GoodReads)

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2011 PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction Winner

The winner of the 2011 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction is:

The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg by Deborah Eisenberg

The honoured book, The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg, brings together four volumes of Eisenberg’s work: Transactions in a Foreign Currency, Under the 82nd Airborne, All Around Atlantis, and Twilight of the Superheroes, which was a PEN/Faulkner Finalist in 2007. Eisenberg’s stories have long been admired for their exceptional language and nuanced evocation of thought and emotion. About this collection, judge Laura Furman says, “From the first to the last of her collected stories, Deborah Eisenberg demonstrates her sharp intelligence, literary inventiveness, and her clear understanding of human interconnectedness as it exists in isolation. Eisenberg’s reader often has the feeling that her characters don’t quite understand either who they are or how they got themselves into their present fix.  The struggle of her characters to create a whole life from the shards of their experience and emotions forms the moral core of Deborah Eisenberg’s work.” The recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, a Whiting Writer’s Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Deborah Eisenberg has also taught at the University of Virginia since 1994.

The PEN/Faulkner Award is America’s largest peer juried prize for fiction in the United States.  As winner, Eisenberg receives $15,000.  Each of the four finalists—Jennifer Egan for A Visit From The Goon Squad (Knopf); Jaimy Gordon for Lord of Misrule(McPherson & Co.); Eric Puchner for Model Home (Scribner); and  Brad Watson for Aliens in The Prime of Their Lives  (W.W. Norton)—receives $5,000.

http://www.penfaulkner.org/news/news/Deborah_Eisenberg_wins_2011_PENFaulkner_Award_for_Fiction

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2010 PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction Winner

The winner of the PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction has been announced.  And the award goes to War Dances by Sherman Alexie.

Take a look at what The Seattle Times had to say about War Dances:

“War Dances” collects 23 stories, essays, poems and call-and-response sequences that examine themes of love, the hazards of love and betrayal, as well as Indian stereotypes, race relations and the corrupting nature of success.

In the announcement, made Tuesday morning from Washington, D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Library, judge Al Young stated, ” ‘War Dances’ taps every vein and nerve, every tissue, every issue that quickens the current blood-pulse: parenthood, divorce, broken links, sex, gender and racial conflict, substance abuse, medical neglect, 9/11, Official Narrative vs. What Really Happened, settler religion versus native spirituality; marketing, shopping and war, war, war. All the heartbreaking ways we don’t live now — this is the caring, eye-opening beauty of this rollicking, bittersweet gem of a book.” ‘

Alexie said Tuesday that the award is particularly meaningful to him, both because he’s the first Native American author to win and because “it was established by writers, for writers. The fact that writers give the award is big for me, especially for this book.” He called “War Dances” a “mixtape” of writing styles and forms that not all reviewers and readers understood; “stories, poems, themes intersecting themes. Some people missed that.”

Read the full article – Seattle Times: Sherman Alexie wins PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, for ‘War Dances’

For more information please follow the link: http://www.penfaulkner.org/news_media.php?id=596

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