2010 Bellwether Prize winner announced
NEW YORK—The 2010 winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, the largest monetary prize for unpublished fiction in North America, is announced today: Naomi Benaron of Tucson will claim the $25,000 award and publication with the Bellwether’s partner publisher, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, N.C. The announcement marks the award’s 10th anniversary.
Prize founder Barbara Kingsolver calls Benaron’s manuscript, Running the Rift, culturally rich and completely engrossing. “It engages the reader with complex political questions about ethnic animosity in Rwanda and so many other issues relevant to North American readers," Kingsolver said. "For one, it conveys the impossibility of remaining neutral within a climate of broad moral compromise—even for purportedly apolitical institutions like the Olympics.”
Benaron’s unique background includes a Master of Fine Arts degree from Antioch University in Los Angeles , and a Master of Science degree in Earth Sciences from Scripps Institute of Oceanography, with a concentration in seismology. She is also a certified orthopedic massage therapist, and an Ironman Triathlete. Currently, she teaches at Pima Community College , works online with women writers in Afghanistan through the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, and works with African refugees in the community.
“In my writing, what has always mattered most is to carry the human consequences of injustice to the reader’s heart and thus in some small way, bring healing,” Benaron said. “From the moment I heard about the Bellwether Prize, I knew it addressed exactly those principles I have strived for in telling the stories I tell. I cannot imagine a greater honor, a greater validation.”
The Bellwether Prize is awarded biennially to a promising first-time novelist working in the tradition of socially engaged literature. Manuscripts are judged blind, to avoid any form of bias; the identity of the author of the winning manuscript (and all other submissions) is not known by any judge or prize administrator until after the decision is finalized. A rotating panel of judges selects the winning manuscript from a national pool of entries.
For the Bellwether Prize’s 10th anniversary selection, judges were chosen for their special understanding of the award’s mission—to advocate serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice. Barbara Kingsolver herself stepped into the role, alongside the first Bellwether recipient Donna Gershten (Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth, HarperCollins, 2001), and Kathy Pories of Algonquin, editor of the 2006 and 2008 Bellwether winners.
Running the Rift “is truly fearless writing: ambitious, beautiful, unapologetically passionate,” Kingsolver said. “I’m impressed and proud to add this novel to the list of Bellwether Prize recipients.”
2008 Bellwether-winning novel released
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow, winner of the 2008 Bellwether Prize, has been released!
The novel, published by Algonquin Books, tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy.
With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.
In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl—and society's ideas of race, class, and beauty. It is the winner of the Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.
Brandeis to release two new books
Gayle Brandeis, whose The Book of Dead Birds won the Bellwether Prize in 2002, will publish two new novels within the coming months. Delta Girls will be released by Ballantine Books in June, and Henry Holt & Company will release her book for young readers, My Life with the Lincolns, this month. Brandeis’s second novel, Self Storage, was published by Ballantine Books in 2007.
In Delta Girls, “the lives of two disparate women—a single mother working hard to make ends meet and a young figure skater at the top of her game—entwine in an unforgettable novel of warmth, depth, and wisdom.”
In My Life with the Lincolns, according to Kirkus Reviews, “Brandeis has created an appealing, quirky protagonist, still childlike in her sensibilities and understanding…. In her first novel for young readers, the author goes beyond usual stories of the civil-rights movement, demonstrating well-intentioned but tone-deaf gestures of white supporters and the discomfort of change.”
* * *
Marjorie Kowalski Cole (1953-2009)
The Bellwether Prize community was saddened to note the passing of Marjorie Kowalski Cole in December, 2009. Her novel, Correcting the Landscape, won the prize in 2004.
* * *
National Prize Winner
2008 Bellwether Prize winner announced
NEW YORK—Barbara Kingsolver is pleased to announce the 2008 winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Heidi W. Durrow of Los Angeles will receive the $25,000 award for her unpublished novel, and the opportunity to work with an editor at this prize cycle’s participating publisher, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. The Bellwether Prize is awarded biennially to a promising first-time novelist working in the tradition of socially engaged literature.
“This award is an incredible honor because it speaks to the reasons I have always read: to be moved by another’s experience and to be changed,” Durrow said. “I believe in the power of books to both reflect and heal the deepest grief—even the wounds caused by corrosive ideas of race. I hope that in some way the story I’ve written will have a healing effect for its readers.” The winning novel is the story of a young woman’s coming of age, complicated by society’s ideas of race, beauty, and intelligence.
A panel of judges selected the winning manuscript, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, from a national pool of entries. Durrow is a graduate of Stanford University, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and Yale Law School. She is the co-founder of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival in Los Angeles, which celebrates the stories of the multi-racial experience.
The Bellwether Prize was established by Barbara Kingsolver and is the only major North American prize that specifically advocates literary fiction addressing issues of social justice. “It’s a thrilling search, every time we read the submissions,” Kingsolver said. “We always hope for a winner that perfectly embodies the standards and hopes of this endeavor: strong writing, a compelling voice, and clear moral vision. In this year’s winner we have that and much more. The story is heart-wrenching and its issues could not be more timely.”
Judges for the 2008 prize cycle were acclaimed authors Ernest Hebert and John Nichols, and Kathy Pories of Algonquin, editor of the New Stories From the South anthologies, and of the 2006 Bellwether winner, Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Previous prizes have also been awarded to: Donna Gershten, 2000, Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth (HarperCollins, 2001); Gayle Brandeis, 2002, The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins, 2003); and Marjorie Kowalski Cole, 2004, Correcting the Landscape (HarperCollins, 2005).
For more information call: Frances Goldin Literary Agency 212. 777. 0047