Winners of the 2014 AWP Award Series
The AWP Award Series for Creative Nonfiction
Winner: Sarah Einstein
Mot, A Memoir, University of Georgia Press
John Phillip Santos, Judge: Mot, A Memoir is a stirring work of self-discovery that manages to be both profoundly vulnerable and emotionally ferreous, as the compelling narrator accounts her puzzling, almost compulsive empathy for Mot, a homeless schizophrenic man she befriends through a shelter program. The language is frank, often austere, even haunting, and the author’s willingness to confront the proliferating uncertainties of her own life gradually attains a brave literary grace. I was delighted by how, amidst the austerity that is her métier, she can suddenly take poetic flight. Speaking of the sight of a row of abandoned cars, she writes, “Like the cattle skulls in cowboy movies, they mark the journeys of people who’ve tried, and failed, the same road we’re traveling.”
Sarah Einstein lives in Athens, OH where she is a PhD student in Creative Nonfiction at Ohio University. Her essays and short stories have previously appeared or are forthcoming in the Sun, Ninth Letter, PANK, Sixfold, and other journals. She has been anthologized in Southern Sin by In Fact Books, and her work appears in the upcoming anthology Writing Into the Forbidden, to be published by Ohio University Press in 2014. Einstein is the author of Remnants of Passion (Shebooks 2014).
Finalist: Peter Selgin for The Inventors, A Memoir
The AWP Award Series for the Novel
Winner: Charles M. Boyer
History's Child, New Issues Press
Mary Gaitskill, Judge: History's Child is a work of natural beauty—or rather the beauty of its artifice is so intelligently and lovingly constructed on such a fine-grained level that it appears natural; it mimics the natural world with seeming artlessness. I mean, by that last part, that this book masterfully renders the subtle electricity of life as it flows and flashes through the eyes of people and animals, animating the wings of insects and the strange hearts of human beings; it renders the beauty and mercilessness of the world.
Charles M. Boyer has an M.A. in fiction writing from the University of New Hampshire, and now teaches English and Humanities at Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, Massachusetts. He has received a writing grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board and a Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. His chapbook of poetry, The Mockingbird Puzzle, was published by Finishing Line Press. History’s Child is inspired by and loosely interprets his wife’s father’s experiences during post-World War II opposition to Stalin’s occupation of Poland.
Finalist: Megan Staffel, Seamless
The Donald Hall Prize for Poetry
Winner: Iliana Rocha
Karankawa, University of Pittsburgh Press
Joy Harjo, Judge: "These are the poems of a new fire. Raw fire makes a unique trail as it burns. They are fueled by a passionate, lyrical, surrealism. This is a border politics kind of surrealism, emerging from a poetic sensibility in which there are no borders. This collection in essence embodies a fresh kind of creation story emerging from the Americas. It’s like reading Rimbaud for the first time. We are struck by an unabashed presence of a fearless singer."
Iliana Rocha is originally from Texas and is currently a PhD candidate in English-Creative Writing at Western Michigan University. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry from Arizona State University, where she was Poetry Editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. Until recently, she taught composition and rhetoric at ASU and developmental writing at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona. Her work was chosen to be featured in Best New Poets 2014 and has previously appeared in Blackbird, Yalobusha Review, and Puerto del Sol.
Finalist: Kim Garcia, The Brighter House
The Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction
Winner: Susan Muaddi Darraj
A Curious Land: Stories from Home, University of Massachusetts Press
Jaime Manrique, Judge: These linked stories about the people of the village of Tel al-Hilou, and their descendants in today’s United States of America, span over a century. The author’s empathy for the large cast of embattled characters is miraculous. In particular, we get to know the quietly heroic Palestinian women in these stories as intimately as we know the people closest to us. Astonishingly, this collection is, above all, about the transformative powers of love.
Susan Muaddi Darraj's previous short story collection, The Inheritance of Exile (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007) was recognized by the US State Department's Arabic Book Program. Her stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in New York Stories, Orchid Literary Review, Banipal, Mizna, al-Jadid, and several anthologies. She is an editor at Barrelhouse Magazine, a literary journal that celebrates the intersection of literature and pop culture, and a recipient of an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council.
Finalist: Josh Barkan, Mexico: A Collection of Stories