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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

PEN America Literary Awards

Yesterday, the winners of the PEN America Literary Awards were announced.  The 2017 PEN America Literary Awards conferred 23 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes totaling nearly $315,000 across a broad range of categories including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, translation, and more.

The PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000) is given to an author whose debut work—a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2016—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.  The winner is Rion Amilcar Scott for Insurrections, a collection of short stories.  

In Insurrections, Rion Amilcar Scott portrays individuals growing up and growing old in an African American community, residents of the fictional town of Cross River, Maryland, a largely black settlement founded in 1807 after the only successful slave revolt in the United States.  Scott presents characters who dare to make their own choices -- choices of kindness or cruelty -- in the depths of darkness and hopelessness:  a suicidal father looks to an older neighbour -- and the Cookie Monster -- for salvation and sanctuary as his life begins to unravel.  A man seeking to save his estranged, drug-addicted brother from the city's underbelly confronts his own mortality.  A chess match between a girl and her father turns into a master class about life, self-realization, and pride: "Now hold on little girl.... Chess is like real life. The white pieces go first so they got an advantage over the black pieces."