Winners of the 2016 AWP Award Series
The AWP Award Series for Creative Nonfiction
Winner: Paisley Rekdal
The Broken Country: On Trauma, A Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam, The University of Georgia Press
Michael Steinberg, Judge: "Paisley Rekdal depicts and examines the far-reaching human effects of the Vietnam War in this deeply affecting, disquieting book. She also interrogates and interprets, from many different perspectives and points of view, the war’s damaging, long-lasting legacy. In beautifully rendered though unsparingly descriptive prose, Rekdal examines the larger scope of this war, most especially, the sheer number of people—refugees, immigrants, and natives alike—who were, as a result, permanently wounded and/or psychologically maimed. In order to piece together this most compelling narrative/meditation, Rekdal becomes, by turns, a fully realized investigative journalist and interviewer; witness and researcher; commentator and cultural critic. I also appreciate that, in her role as the reader’s narrator and guide, she’s always a deeply concerned, passionately engaged, human being."
Paisley Rekdal is the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee; a hybrid-genre photo-text memoir that combines poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and photography entitled Intimate; and four books of poetry: A Crash of Rhinos, Six Girls Without Pants, The Invention of the Kaleidoscope, and Animal Eye, which was a finalist for the 2013 Kingsley Tufts Prize, the Balcones Prize, and winner of the UNT Rilke Prize. Her work has received the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, a Fulbright Fellowship, and various state arts council awards. Her newest book of poems, Imaginary Vessels, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in November 2016.
Finalists: Wendy Rawlings, The Hiccup and Jacqueline Lyons, Breakdown of Poses
The AWP Award Series for the Novel
Winner: James Janko
The Clubhouse Thief , New Issues Press
Karen Tei Yamashita, Judge: "What if the Cubs won the World Series? What would it mean to lose the curse of failure, and what anyway is the meaning of that curse? This is a romantic fiction of American baseball driven by superstition and enduring loyalty and set against the backdrop of Chicago, its history the converging American center of racial and political turmoil. The other wished for fictions are the presidential candidacy of an African American Muslim woman, supported by the Cub team members, and the infusion of poetry into the games of baseball and politics. The passionate desire of the game is threaded through an equal desire for racial equality and social justice and the history of athletes with political convictions. Narrated by a sardonic aging bench coach, still grasping for a last chance and revitalization and beset by contemporary changes of race and gender to his iconic (white) American game, this romantic comedy is crafted with careful tension, all the gripping pacing and rhythms in play. Rummaging through and lifting the love letters, poetry, and opinion articles of his team, the bench coach/clubhouse thief gets an education and an epiphany. Not an avid fan nor very knowledgeable about baseball, I followed every pitch, hit, and steal with the same intensity of the telling, and I realize that I, too, really wanted the Cubs to win. Hilarious and heartbreaking."
James Janko’s novel, Buffalo Boy And Geronimo (Curbstone Press), received wide critical acclaim and two awards: The Association of Asian American Studies 2006 Prose Award and the 2007 Northern California Book Award for Fiction. His short stories have appeared in the Massachusetts Review, the Sun, and numerous other magazines. Janko won the 2002 Illinois Arts Council Award for Fiction.
The Donald Hall Prize for Poetry
Winner: Lauren Clark
Music for a Wedding, University of Pittsburgh Press
Vijay Seshadri, Judge: "Lauren Clark’s imagination is, paradoxically, both torrential and discriminating, deeply serious and funny at the same time. Their writing is forceful and self-delighting yet minutely attentive to the world’s particulars. They deploy in their stunning poems the maximum amount of intellectual power consistent with their delicacy of perception, their subtle sonic and rhetorical modulations, and their emotional honesty and vulnerability. Their poems are a marriage and reconciliation of many if not all the disparate, contradictory, and opposing elements of our experience."
Lauren Clark holds a BA in Classics from Oberlin College and an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan, where they were the recipient of four Hopwood Awards. They have received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers Conference and the New York State Summer Writers Institute, and collaborate with Etc. Gallery in Chicago.
Finalist: Joyce Sutphen, Paper Camera
The Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction
Winner: Mary Kuryla
Freak Weather Stories, University of Massachusetts Press
Amy Hempel, Judge: "There is a feral quality to some of these stories, an attitude that is truly startling. The language is perfectly matched to the not-so-conflicted women living off venison, weed, and their husband’s paychecks. The territory here is sometimes disturbing; the treatment of these people who are in over their heads is always both tough and surprisingly moving. The “action” resides as much in the brisk, fresh language as in what these people conjure in a crisis. Ultimately, the author delivers stories unlike anyone else’s."
Mary Kuryla’s stories have received the Pushcart Prize and have appeared in several literary journals. With a winning story in the July 2015 Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Prize, she also has a story forthcoming in The Normal School. Her award-winning shorts and feature films have premiered at Sundance and Toronto. She has written screen adaptations for United Artists and MGM, and she has been a scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the New York Summer Writers Institute.
Finalist: John Blair, White Sands