Finalists announced for 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize
The five finalists for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, announced on Friday, include works of fiction addressing the refugee crisis, the aftermath of a massive earthquake in Haiti and contemporary stories about addiction, race, gender and themes timeless family.
The nonprofit literary organization Aspen Words has awarded its $35,000 prize every year since 2018, recognizing novels and storybooks that address vital social issues. This year’s finalists are: “The Arsonists’ City” by Hala Alyan; “The Final Rebirth of Opal and Nev” by Dawnie Walton; “The Five Wounds” by Kirstin Valdez Quade; “What a storm, what thunder” by Myriam JA Chancy; and “What Strange Paradise” by Omar El Akkad.
“Many of these works evoke concerns in the current zeitgeist, while others remind us of disasters from the recent past that define our present and demand renewed attention,” said Aspen Words Executive Director Adrienne Brodeur, in the ad.
The finalists were selected from a long list of 16 books by this year’s jury of Angie Cruz, Danielle Evans, Ann Friedman and Kiese Laymon.
Their quote titled “The City of Arsonists” “is a strongly drawn and compelling story of a family and the years of tenderness and betrayal that bind them together, but it also tells a radical story about the other beyond violence, displacement and upheaval.”
Nominated “The Final Review of Opal and Nev” is Walton’s debut novel. The jury called it “a dazzling exploration of the dramatic and bizarre complications of how race, gender, and punk rock necessarily collide. What can these collisions produce? The book is a tutorial on the terrifying possibilities and limits of an interracial duo who seem to be moving in two very different directions when they break up.
Walton reacted to the nomination on Twitter Friday morning, writing, “What an incredible honor, especially considering the type of work this award celebrates.”
Of Valdez’s nominated novel, the jury wrote: “‘The Five Wounds’ is a beautiful, open-ended novel full of living characters whose lives tell an illuminating story about drug addiction, self-improvement programs and what happens when social service providers are more invested in their own validation than what they might promise the people who need it most.
“What Storm, What Thunder” by Chancy, published by the small independent press Tin House, imagines life on the ground in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck. was produced there in 2010. “Through the chorus of ten unforgettable characters, the novel relentlessly and movingly tells the story of the earthquake, urging us to remember and rethink the disaster,” the jury wrote.
El Akkad’s “What Strange Paradise” is also inspired by a recent historical event in the Syrian migrant crisis. “In spare and unforgiving prose, El Akkad underscores the callousness and kindness of its characters, dragging them from the front page and bringing them fully to life and forcing us to respond,” the jury wrote in its citation.
A winner will be announced at an April 21 awards ceremony at New York’s Morgan Library, marking the award’s first live events since 2019. The past two years have moved to Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus. The awards event will include a conversation with the finalists moderated by Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
Past winners of the Aspen Words Literary Prize are Louise Erdrich’s “The Nightwatchman” in 2021, Christy Lefteri’s “The Beekeeper of Aleppo” in 2020, Tayari Jones’ “An American Marriage” in 2019, and Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West” in of the first edition of 2018. the ceremony.