For Immediate Release: March 8, 2001
Further information: Tom McNaught (617) 514-1662
Megan Desnoyers

Boston: PEN New England and the John F. Kennedy Library announce The Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award Winner Akhil Sharma, for An Obedient Father & The L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award Winner Jay Wright, for Transfigurations: Collected Poems

The April 29th Awards Presentation will be held at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston at 3:00 p.m. The Keynote Address will be delivered by Grace Paley. A reception follows the presentations

The Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, America's best-known prize for a distinguished first book of fiction, has been won by Akhil Sharma for his remarkable and bold novel, An Obedient Father, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. "A supernova in the galaxy of young, talented Indian writers," Publishers Weekly wrote. Bapsi Sidhwa said, "An original voice of astonishing range and power."

In winning the award, Sharma joins the list of esteemed firsts, including Jhumpa Lahiri for her short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, Marilynne Robinson for Housekeeping, Susan Power for The Grass Dancer, Louis Begley for Wartime Lies, and Chang-rae Lee for Native Speaker. The $7,500 annual award was founded by late PEN member Mary Hemingway in 1976 to honor the memory of Ernest Hemingway and to draw attention to first books of fiction. The award is funded by the Hemingway Foundation/Society headed by Scott Donaldson. Mary Hemingway also deposited Ernest Hemingway’s papers in the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. The judges for the award were authors Elinor Lipman, Jill McCorkle, and Cathleen Schine. The award will be presented by Patrick Hemingway, the son of Ernest Hemingway.

The L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award, honoring a book by a New England author or about New England, has been won by Jay Wright for Transfigurations: Collected Poems, published by LSU Press. Scholarly, historical, intuitive, and emotional, his work explores territories in which rituals of psychological and spiritual individuation find a new synthesis in the construction of cultural values. Harold Bloom says, "Jay Wright is nothing less than a great poet."

The judges of the $3000 Winship prize were authors and PEN New England members Jonathan Aaron, Sven Birkerts, Jane Brox, Jane G. Hawes, and Elizabeth McCracken. Built upon the L.L. Winship Award sponsored by the Boston Globe to honor longtime Globe editor Laurence L. Winship, the L.L. Winship Award is now a joint endeavor of PEN New England and the Globe. The award will be presented by Thomas Winship, longtime Globe editor and son of L.L. Winship.

Akhil Sharma was born in Delhi, India in 1971. He grew up in Edison, New Jersey. His stories have appeared in the Best American Short Stories anthology, the O.Henry Award Winners anthology, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker. Sharma lives in New York Citywhere he is an investment
banker.

An Obedient Father was selected by the Voice Literary Supplement for itsYear 2000 Writers on the Verge Award. It was also excerpted in the debut fiction issue of The New Yorker.

Jay Wright is renowned poet and playwright whose work explores the myths and rituals of the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Wright played professional baseball before studying literature at the University of California at Berkeley and Rutgers University. His other books of poetry include Beleros, Elaine's Book, Selected Poems, The Double Invention of Komo, Dimensions of History, Explications/Interpretations, Soothsayers and Omens, and The Homecoming Singer.

Wright has received numerous awards for his verse, including a 2000 Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the 62nd Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets. A MacArthur Fellow and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Wright lives in Vermont.

The Finalists for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award are Mohsid Hamid for Moth Smoke, a dazzling and provocative novel published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Tom Paine for Scar Vegas and Other Stories, a haunting and hilarious first collection. Of Moth Smoke, Joyce Carol Oates says, "The voice of the novel is its triumph. . . confiding, witty, self-lacerating, arrogant and humble and unfailingly convincing." Rick Moody says of Scar Vegas, "Savage, beautiful, whimsical, restless, inspired, heroic, new."

Along with these two finalists and the winner, two runners-up receive Ucross Residency Fellowships at the Ucross Foundation, a retreat for artists and writers located on a 22,000-acre ranch on the high plains in Ucross, Wyoming. The runners-up are Myla Goldberg for Bee Season (Doubleday) and Elissa Schappell for Use Me (Perennial/HarperCollins). The Ucross Foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. A special part of the April 29th reception will be recognizing the contributions of the Ucross Foundation.

The Finalists for the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award include: Joseph J. Ellis for Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (Knopf); Evelyn Fox Keller, The Century of the Gene (Harvard University Press); Stanley Kunitz, The Collected Poems (Norton); and Philip Roth, The Human Stain (Houghton Mifflin).

Presentation of the awards is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation, PEN New England, the Boston Globe, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation and Society, and the Ucross Foundation.

PEN New England is one of the regional branches of PEN American Center, which is in turn part of International PEN, the only worldwide organization of writers. PEN New England provides a focal point for the New England literary community, sponsors free, public literary events, and helps to advance the goals and programs of PEN.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis described Mary Hemingway’s gift of Ernest Hemingway papers to the Kennedy Library as helping "to fulfill our hope that the Library will become a center for the study of American civilization, in all its aspects, in these years." Mrs. Onassis also brought presentation of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award to the Library from New York. The Hemingway Foundation, PEN New England, the Boston Globe and the Library work together to ensure that the judging and presentation remain in New England.

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum is a Presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.

For further information about the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award or the L. L. Winship/PEN NE Award, contact Mary Sullivan: 617-499-9550 or e-mail mary@pen-ne.org. For further information on the Award Ceremony, contact Megan Desnoyers: 617-929-4540 or Email: megan.desnoyers@nara.gov

 

 

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