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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction

Yesterday the winners of the 2016 PEN Literary Awards were announced.  PEN confers over $200,000 to authors writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, biography, essays, translation, and more.

The award in which I was most interested is the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000) which is awarded to an author “whose debut work—published in 2015—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.”

The winner is Mia Alvar for her short story collection In the Country.  “Published by Alfred A. Knopf, In the Country comprises nine stories giving voice to the Filipino diaspora as its characters reflect on their cultural identities to confront the traumas of the past and the uncertainties of the future.  "It is rare to find a debut of such depth and breadth, work singing with the grace of a thousand doomed lifetimes compressed into stories both luminous and empathic, populated by memorable characters facing such keenly felt challenges," judges Helon Habila, Elizabeth McCracken, Edie Meidav, and Jess Row wrote in their citation for the award” ( gave brief plot summaries of the five finalists on February 3: