The winner of the 2015 GrubStreet Book Prize in Fiction is Josh Weil of Nevada City, CA for The Great Glass Sea, published by Grove Atlantic. Author Sigrid Nunez was the head juror and also named two Finalists: Megan Mayhew Bergman for Almost Famous Women (Scribner) and Jess Row for Your Face in Mine (Riverhead).
In her citation, Sigrid Nunez wrote: "It’s not often that one can say truthfully about a book that it is not like any other book. But that is precisely what readers of Josh Weil’s radiantly written, profoundly original first novel will find themselves saying. Intricately composed and thrillingly audacious,The Great Glass Sea is a tender story of fraternal love and a visionary imagining of Russian society—a work whose scope enlarges to explore important questions about family, politics, labor, freedom, ambition, and storytelling. Much of the novel’s enchantment depends on Weil’s skillful fusion of the real and the make-believe. Epic and intimate at once, it offers the delights and satisfactions of traditional folklore as well as of the most penetrating and inventive speculative fiction. Weil’s prose style is virtuosic: exuberant, lyrical, disciplined. “A good formula to test the quality of a novel,” Nabokov once said, “is the merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science.” The Great Glass Sea passes that test. Dima and Yarik, the twins conceived by Weil with the deepest compassion and understanding, are now immortal. And once the excitement of having read the book has died down, the question naturally occurs: What will this brilliant young writer do next?"
Josh Weil is also the author of The New Valley, a volume of novellas, winner of the 2010 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from The American Academy of Arts & Letters. Weil’s other fiction has appeared in Granta, Esquire, Tin House and One Story,and he has written non-fiction for The New York Times, The Sun, Poets & Writers and Time.com. A recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, he has been the Tickner Writer-in-Residence at Gilman School, the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bowling Green State University, and the Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Born in the Appalachian mountains of Southwest Virginia, he currently lives with his family in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, where he is at work on a collection of stories.
The winner of the 2014 GrubStreet Book Prize in Poetry is Rob Schlegel of Walla Walla, WA for January Machine, forthcoming from Four Way Books in March 2014. Poet and critic Stephen Burt, named in 2012 by the New York Times as "one of the most influential poetry critics of his generation" was the head juror and also named two finalists: Adrian Matejka's The Big Smoke (Penguin) and Kevin Prufer's Churches (Four Way Books).
In his citation, Stephen Burt wrote: "There are verse-diaries, sequences given to dailiness, modern attempts to capture the frustrations and the delights of experience lesser writers might consider too ordinary to name; there are, that is, other books of poetry remotely like January Machine, but none of them feel like Schlegel’s arresting, sometimes seductive, sometimes bitter, always intelligent set. Not at all: Schlegel’s work—mostly in untitled quatrains, sometimes in epigrammatic shorter forms—belongs only and always to him and to our time. Part description, part abstract, always intelligent, sometimes awesomely strange, Schlegel’s carefulness qualifies and even improves the texture of an absurd and yet familiar 21st century everyday, lived outdoors and inland, between bathroom mirrors and surveillance screens, where “at the corner of Front/ and Main... a man stands/ partly contained within a cage” that is not quite his home, “when fear is a venue in states”; where patriotism is at once delusional and inescapable and comforting; where twentysomething anomie and adult responsibility show an uncanny ability to coexist; “where/ my fear of heroes somehow starts”; where “birds are holy/ because their bones fill with the same air/ into which they fall in order to fly.”
Rob Schlegel is also the author of The Lesser Fields, winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry. A chapbook, Bloom, won the 2010 Laurel Review/GreenTower Press Chapbook Prize. Individual poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, The Iowa Review, New American Writing, Poetry, The Volta, and elsewhere. With Daniel Poppick he co-edits The Catenary Press, a micropress dedicated to publishing long poems. Born in Portland, Oregon, he has lived most recently in Iowa, Montana, and Washington.
Rob visited GrubStreet in July 2014 for a reading, reception and to lead a craft class for members.
Ellen Cassedy of Washington, DC, won the 2013 Book Prize in Nonfiction for We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust, published by University of Nebraska Press in March 2012. Award-winning author and educator Jane Brox was the head juror. As part of the prize, Ellen Cassedy gave a public reading at the 2013 Muse and the Marketplace conference the weekend of May 3-5, 2013 at the Park Plaza hotel.
In her citation, Jane Brox wrote: "In We Are Here Ellen Cassedy does far more than recount her journey to Lithuania to learn Yiddish and uncover her family’s past. As she weaves together her personal story and her research she does honor to the complexity of history, to the corrosions of time, to the weight of memory, culture, and family. She finds nothing is easy, but her capacity to remain open to her experience, to question herself, her assumptions, and the truth of memory make her a most reliable narrator. Her narrative -- gracefully written and carefully structured -- pulls the reader forward with her questioning, and brings both the Lithuania of today and the ghettoes of its wartime past to life. Her journey becomes not merely a search for answers but a quest to understand the complexity of a people who must live with their tragic and violent history. We Are Here is a grave and beautiful accomplishment."
Eileen Pollack of Ann Arbor, MI, won the 2012 Book Prize in Fiction for her novel Breaking and Entering, published by Four Way Books. Acclaimed novelist Margot Livesey was the head juror. As part of the prize, Eileen Pollack gave a public reading on the evening of May 5th, 2012, along with our non-fiction winner, Wendy Call. Both winning authors presented craft classes at the 2012 Muse and the Marketplace conference at the Park Plaza hotel.
Of Breaking and Entering, Margot Livesey wrote: “Eileen Pollack has written a novel that happily succeeds in being both deeply entertaining and deeply serious. Set in the 1990s in a small town in Michigan, the novel follows the Shapiros, Louise and Richard, after they move from California to Potawatomie. Richard, a therapist, has retreated from life after the suicide of one of his favourite patients. In Potawatomie he takes a job at the prison and begins to spend time with other prison staff and their hunting and fishing neighbours. Meanwhile Louise, neglected by her husband and isolated from her old friends, takes a job as a school counselor and begins to make her own connections in their new community. With great empathy and intelligence, Pollack explores these two opposing hearts of darkness - how Liberals see Republicans, and how Republicans see Liberals - while at the same time charting the vicissitudes of the Shapiros' marriage. Her compelling plot and resonant characters make Breaking and Entering a hugely enjoyable novel; the moral complexity of her themes makes it an important and timely one.”
Grub Street also warmly congratulates three honorable mentions: Flea Circus: A Bestiary of Grief by Mandy Keifetz (New Issues),Separate Kingdoms by Valerie Laken (Harper Perennial) and Aftermath by Scott Nadelson (Hawthorne). All of these books are available to be borrowed from the Grub Street library.
Wendy Call of Seattle, WA won our 2011 National Book Prize in Non-Fiction for her collection, No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy published by The University of Nebraska Press. Ms. Call received $1000 and gave a public reading and craft class as part of her guest author role at the Muse and the Marketplace literary conference.
Of No Word for Welcome, head juror Michelle Seaton wrote: “[This book] cuts through the rhetoric of globalization to show what happens to a community when the government, abetted by international industrial interests, threatens build a superhighway through farmland and to turn ancient fishing waters into shrimp farms, ostensibly for the good of all. Author Wendy Call shows the effects of industrialization not by preaching against it or by romanticizing village life from afar; instead she introduces us to the people she came to know while living for two years on the Isthmus of Theuantepec, in Mexico’s extreme south, often called the country’s “little waist.” In beautiful prose, she profiles a teacher, a fisherman and several activists in the region in order to show how even the threat of change can divide a community. Through her travels in the region, she documents its history, as well as the economic and cultural differences among its peoples.”
Grub Street also warmly congratulates two finalists: Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, by Sandra Beasley(Crown Publishing) and The Riots by Daniele Cadena Deulen (University of Georgia Press). All of these books are available to be borrowed from the Grub Street library.
Frances McCue of Seattle won the 2011 National Book Prize in Poetry for her collection, The Bled, published by Factory Hollow Press. McCue will receive $1000 and will lead a free craft class for members on the craft of poetry at Grub Street sometime this fall or in early 2012. McCue is also the author of The Stenographer’s Breakfast(Beacon, 1992).
Of The Bled, head juror Elisa Gabbert, Grub instructor and author of The French Exit, wrote, "The 'bled' in which these poems take place is Marrakesh, where Frances McCue found great happiness and suffered crippling loss. While living in Morocco, the poet’s husband died unexpectedly, and The Bled is a brief and beautiful collection of elegiac love poems born of the event, poems about a mother and daughter suddenly missing their third: “’If I had to pick one of you,’ my daughter says, / ‘I’d pick you.’ And that’s good, I guess, / because I’m the one she has left.” The Bled is moving and tragic, yes, but doesn’t rely on automatic pathos to impress – it is also wonderful poetry. McCue’s voice is sure and devoid of clichés, her language deft, exact, and lovely, as when she describes the bled: “One could see the frozen, scalded acre, / flashed with heat and cold, the brick-chunked / rocks on the cusp of sand, the not-so-far Sahara. // We live here.” And the difficulty of reconciling memory with death: “Hands, your hands were your hands. / And the cheeks, they were your cheeks. / Still now, they are not. I press your hands, / wipe your cheek, set your skin in my palm. / It would rot away, it would not keep.” And the desire to follow, to have been the one (“Today, I go to the cemetery / and lie upon the grave. / When I tip my head back / it was as if I tipped your head back”), the complete identification with the dead (“Since your face is looking at the sky, / your eyes filming in, losing their sheen, / I don’t see. I don’t see”). McCue’s The Bled joins Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinkingand Tess Gallagher's Moon Crossing Bridge among fierce, gorgeous books about marriage and grief."
Grub Street also warmly congratulates two finalists: Thomas Sayers Ellis’s Skin, Inc. (Graywolf Press) and Paula Cisewski’s Ghost Fargo (Nightboat Books).
Gina Ochsner was the winner of our 2011 National Book Prize in Fiction for her novel, The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Ochsner received $1000 and led a class on the craft of fiction at our Muse and the Marketplace conference April 30-May 1, 2011. She also lead a free craft class for members in our space.
Head juror Michelle Hoover was supremely taken with this novel and offered the following citation: “Gina Ochsner becomes our own Tatyana Tolstaya with The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight, a novel at once melancholic and comic, dreamy and mired in the bowels of modern day Russia. Set in an apartment building with a common-use latrine, a mud-soaked courtyard, and a hoard of violent, philosophy-minded urchins, the dwellers wake from their impoverished lives when one particularly irritating resident dies in a fall from the roof. Never properly buried, Mircha returns to haunt the complex, stinking of his newfound ideas about life and death, while his wife Azade toils at the latrine, able to name her customer’s shifting dreams by the odors they leave behind. Young Tayna is an insatiable poet, her notebook full of airy wonder, while war veteran Yuri dreams of becoming a fish and wears a helmet against the ticking sounds in his head. Yuri’s widowed mother, Olga, toils at a conservative newspaper, translating tragedies into agreeable prose. But what to write when the city itself starts to turn to mud?: 'City officials advise residents to avoid the out of doors at all costs. If one should find him or herself mud-bound by no means should he or she thrash about.' Only when a group of Americas arrive to tour the city’s All-Russia, All-Cosmopolitan Museum, stocked with forgeries and statues fashioned from gum and foam, does the delicate balance of their absurd lives, and the apartment itself, begin—quite agreeably—to sink. Refreshing in substance, gorgeous in style, and heart-rending in sensibility, Ochsner’s first novel is one of the most delightful I’ve read in years.”
Rahna Reiko Rizzuto was the winner of our 2010 National Book Prize in Non-Fiction for her memoir, Hiroshima in the Morning, published by The Feminist Press. Rizzuto received $1000 and led a class on the craft of narrative non-fiction at our Muse and the Marketplace conference April 30-May 1, 2011. She also led a free craft class for members in our space. Head juror Grace Talusan described this wonderful winning book in these words: “In her memoir Hiroshima in the Morning, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto explores what happens when a bomb finds its target. Initially, she’s in search of stories about Japanese Americans during World War II and survivors of the atomic bomb. Her husband and sons, ages 3 and 5, stay in New York as Rizzuto travels to Hiroshima, despite criticism that she’s a “bad mother” for leaving her family for months to write. She’s steeped in stories about fate and survival, about how someone survived because of a seemingly mundane and arbitrary move. She is collecting material for her second novel, including interviews with survivors of the atomic bomb named Little Boy, when a new ground zero is created in New York. The world around her as well as the world she’s created with her husband will never be the same. Her family pressures her to come home, but Rizzuto won’t leave Japan or her work. She writes, “So there is that moment, then; the last breath of before: when life is about to change, utterly and forever, into something we have no way to conceive of. When the trajectory is already being drawn and there is no way to stop it.” Using diary entries, emails, telephone transcripts, and oral histories, Rizzuto pieces together a masterful collage about Hiroshima, 9/11, ambivalent motherhood, a doomed marriage, and a writer trying to understand what narrative means amidst so many kinds of bombs hitting so many beloved targets.”
Grub Street also congratulates two finalists: Lost in Wonder: Imagining Science and Other Mysteries (Counterpoint, 2010) by Colette Brooks and Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2010) by Sonya Huber.
Debra Allbery was the winner of the 2010 Grub Street National Book Prize in Poetry for Fimbul-Winter. Allbery is the author of one previous book of poems, Walking Distance (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991) and the director of the MFA program at Warren Wilson College. Of Fimbul-Winter, final judge Jill McDonough wrote: “Debra Allbery's Fimbul-Winter is wide-ranging and densely populated. F. Martens’ Voyage to Spitzbergen, Milan Kundera, Meng Hao-jan. A housel dish, Cormac McCarthy, bonewort, The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson. Intelligence and empathy, ambition and appetite. Precise, precisely felt descriptions of “the dim settled silence of a bookshop,/frayed bindings and familiar foxed must,” of dreams of winter coats, of “the slow scuff/of my own heart.” Inside these poems, waiting rooms and offices fill with as much wonder, tenderness, and specificity as Vermeers, Orion, a mine fire burning a hundred years under Ohio. Still burning.”
In early 2011, Allbery visited Grub Street from Asheville, NC for a reading and dinner reception, and led a craft class for members.
McDonough chose three finalists: Kelle Groom's Five Kingdoms (Anhinga Press), Chana Bloch's Blood Honey (Autumn House Press), and Michael Meyerhofer's Blue Collar Eulogies (Steel Toe Books).
The winner of Grub Street's 2010 National Book Prize in Fiction was Vestal McIntyre for his novel Lake Overturn, published by Harper in 2009. McIntyre is the author of the story collection You Are Not the One(Carroll & Graf, 2004), was a guest author at last year’s Muse and the Marketplace conference, and will return to the conference in May 2010. Of Lake Overturn, Grub instructor and head juror Lisa Borders wrote: "McIntyre’s magnificent novel explores the social strata of a small town in Idaho in the 1980s. The prose is lush, the observations keen, and the plot engrossing to the last page; but what sets this book apart is McIntyre’s utter sympathy for all of his characters. From Connie, the fundamentalist whose reading of the Bible is too literal even for her own church, to Wanda, the addict who yearns to be a mother, to Enrique, a junior high school misfit who can occasionally be as cruel as his tormentors in his struggle for acceptance, the reader cannot help but be moved by the ways in which the good people of Eula, Idaho stumble, rise and grow."
We also congratulate our Finalist, Scott Blackwood, for his excellent novel We Agreed To Meet Just Here (Western Michigan University Press, 2009).
The winner of Grub Street's 2009 National Book Prize in Poetry was Rick Barot for Want, published by Sarabande Books in 2008. Barot is the author of one previous book of poetry, The Darker Fall (Sarabande, 2002). Of Want, head juror Wendy Mnookin wrote: "Rick Barot pleases with the elegance of his precise language and formal control, but he wins us over with his stories. From the boy 'rollerblading/ naked in the house' to Adam, 'wishing his rib back,' Barot captures characters engaged in emotionally charged situations--in stories. In the opening poem, the speaker is 'wanting in' on the story. He gets in. And he takes the reader with him." Barot visited Grub Street from Tacoma, WA for a reading and dinner reception, and led a craft class for members.
There was one finalist: Sight Map by Brian Teare (University of California Press, 2009). We also acknowledgeCraig Arnold's Made Flesh (Ausable, 2008) and are deeply saddened by his passing.
Alan Cheuse won our 2009 National Book Prize in Fiction for his novel To Catch the Lightning (Sourcebooks). In addition to receiving a $1000 honorarium, Mr. Cheuse visited Boston in spring of 2009 as a guest author at Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace literary conference. Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio's longtime "voice of books," is the author of four novels, three collections of short fiction, and the memoir Fall Out of Heaven. As a book commentator, Cheuse is a regular contributor to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, The Idaho Review, and The Southern Review, among other places. He teaches in the Writing Program at George Mason University and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.
There were two Finalists/Honorable Mentions: Don Lee for Wrack and Ruin (W. W. Norton) and Nora Eisenberg for When You Come Home (Curbstone Press). We are honored that such a distinguished and exciting group of writers has participated in the prize this year.
In addition, Dinty W. Moore won our 2008 National Book Prize in Non-Fiction for his memoir Between Panic and Desire (University of Nebraska Press). In addition to receiving a $1000 honorarium, Mr. Moore visited Boston in spring of 2009 as a guest author at Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace literary conference and led a craft class exclusively for members. Terese Svoboda was named a finalist for Black Glasses Like Clark Kent: A GI's Secret from Postwar Japan (Graywolf). Dinty W. Moore is a professor of English at Ohio University and the author of several books, including The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction and The Accidental Buddhist: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still. He has work forthcoming in The Normal School, Black Warrior Review, and Fourth Genre, and recent work in Gulf Coast, Iron Horse, and Chautauqua. He continues to serve as contributing editor to W.W. Norton's The Best Creative Nonfiction series.
Rebecca Seiferle won the 2008 Grub Street National Book Prize in Poetry for her collection Wild Tongue, published by Copper Canyon Press. Rebecca visited Grub Street for a reading and reception, and led a members-only craft class. Finalists were Ellen Bass for The Human Line (Copper Canyon), Cate Marvin forFragment of the Head of a Queen (Sarabande), and Reginald Shepherd for Fata Morgana (University of Pittsburgh Press). Christopher Hennessy judged.
Rebecca Seiferle is the founding editor of the online international poetry journal The Drunken Boat and the author of three previous books of poetry and two books of translations. She lives in Tucson, AZ. The Grub Street National Book Prize is awarded three times annually to a poet, fiction writer and non-fiction writer outside New England publishing beyond his or her first book.
Complete List of Grub Street Book Prize Winners
- 2007 Book Prize in Fiction: Sheri Joseph, Stray (MacAdam/Cage)
- 2007 Book Prize in Poetry: Linda Gregg, In The Middle Distance (Graywolf)
- 2007 Book Prize in Non-Fiction: Susan Richards Shreve, Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven(Houghton Mifflin)
- 2008 Book Prize in Fiction: Joshua Furst, The Sabotage Cafe (Alfred A. Knopf)
- 2008 Book Prize in Poetry: Rebecca Seiferle
- 2008 Book Prize in Non-Fiction: Dinty W. Moore
- 2009 Book Prize in Fiction: Alan Cheuse
- 2009 Book Prize in Poetry: Rick Barot
- 2010 Book Prize in Fiction: Vestal McIntyre
- 2010 Book Prize in Poetry: Debra Allbery
- 2010 Book Prize in Non-Fiction: Rahna Reiko Rizzuto
- 2011 Book Prize in Fiction: Gina Ochsner
- 2011 Book Prize in Poetry: Frances McCue
- 2011 Book Prize in Non-Fiction: Wendy Call
- 2012 Book Prize in Fiction: Eileen Pollack
*From 2007 – 2011, the Grub Street Book Prize was awarded three times annually in each genre. Starting with the 2012 Prize, the terms and prize money were revised and the prize is now offered once annually.