The Bard Fiction Prize is awarded to a promising emerging writer who is an American citizen aged 39 years or younger at the time of application. In addition to a $30,000 cash award, the winner receives an appointment as writer in residence at Bard College for one semester, without the expectation that he or she teach traditional courses. The recipient gives at least one public lecture and meets informally with students.
Author Violet Kupersmith has received the Bard Fiction Prize for her first novel, Build Your House Around My Body (Random House 2021). Kupersmith’s residency at Bard College is for the fall 2023 semester, during which time she will continue her writing and meet informally with students. Kupersmith will give a public reading at Bard during her residency.
“Violet Kupersmith’s Build Your House Around My Body never ceases to surprise, as it intertwines disparate time periods, locations, and cultures, not to mention realities, and its sentences are worlds in themselves,” writes the Bard Fiction Prize committee. “She approaches her subject matter in fresh ways, and the novel’s otherworldly elements are expertly interwoven with the mundane, through an imagination truly rich and strange. This novel is sensual, it is visceral, it is outrageously comic. By turns, Kupersmith makes you squeamish with distaste, shivery with terror, giddy with laughter, awestruck by beauty, and warmed by unexpected tenderness. She always makes you marvel at her inventiveness, enticing you to solve the novel’s central mysteries, as she elicits the widest range of sensations possible. She is a writer of astonishing perspicacity and fluidity of language, and succumbing to her magic is a risk no reader should hesitate to take.”
“What a staggering honor to be in the company of all the literary luminaries who were previous winners of the award or have called Bard home at some point in their careers,” said Kupersmith. “I am just grateful beyond words to the prize committee for this recognition and for such an extraordinary gift. And I cannot wait to plant myself in this fertile intellectual environment next fall and grow something strange and new.”
Violet Kupersmith was born in central Pennsylvania in 1989 and later moved with her family to the Philadelphia suburbs. Her father is a white American and her mother is from Da Nang, Vietnam. Her mother’s family fled the country by boat following the fall of Saigon in 1975, and were resettled in Port Arthur, Texas. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 2011, Violet spent a year teaching English in Tra Vinh, Vietnam, on a Fulbright Fellowship. Between 2013 and 2015, she lived in Da Lat and Saigon, Vietnam. She was the 2015–2016 David T. K. Wong Fellow at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, and is the recipient of a 2022 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her short story collection The Frangipani Hotelwas publishedbySpiegel & Grau in 2014. violetkupersmith.com
About the Bard Fiction Prize
The creation of the Bard Fiction Prize, presented each October since 2001, continues Bard’s longstanding position as a center for creative, groundbreaking literary work by both faculty and students. From Saul Bellow, William Gaddis, Mary McCarthy, and Ralph Ellison to John Ashbery, Philip Roth, William Weaver, and Chinua Achebe, Bard’s literature faculty, past and present, represents some of the most important writers of our time. The prize is intended to encourage and support young writers of fiction, and provide them with an opportunity to work in a fertile intellectual environment. Last year’s Bard Fiction Prize was awarded to Lindsey Drager for her novel, The Archive of Alternate Endings (Dzanc Books 2019).
Bard Invites Submissions for Its Annual Fiction Prize for Young Writers
To apply, candidates should write a cover letter explaining the project they plan to work on while at Bard and submit a CV, along with three copies of the published book they feel best represents their work. No manuscripts will be accepted. Applications for the 2024 prize must be received by June 1, 2023. For information about the Bard Fiction Prize, call 845-758-7087, send an e-mail to [email protected], or visit bard.edu/bfp. Applicants may also request information by writing to: Bard Fiction Prize, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504-5000.
Bard Fiction Prize Winners
Lindsey Drager. Photo by Allan G. Borst.
Lindsey Drager, 2022 Recipient
Author Lindsey Drager has received the Bard Fiction Prize for her novel, The Archive of Alternate Endings (Dzanc Books 2019). Drager’s residency at Bard College is for the fall 2022 semester, during which time she will continue her writing and meet informally with students. Drager will give a public reading at Bard during her residency.
“Lindsey Drager’s wonderfully innovative novel, The Archive of Alternate Endings, takes its readers on an elliptical, speculative, philosophically intrepid journey that tracks the evolution of the old folktale, Hansel and Gretel, between 1378 and 2365, even as it redefines and revises our sense of what narrative itself can achieve,” writes the Bard Fiction Prize committee. “As Halley’s Comet revisits the Earth every seventy-five years, like some cosmic metronome, we encounter the siblings Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Johannes Gutenberg and his sister, and twin space probes searching the galaxy for a sister planet to our own. As we do, we witness the many ways in which Hansel and Gretel themselves are transformed along with the human experience their tale portrays. Intimate in its understanding of the multiplicities of love, here is an elegantly succinct work of art that is flat-out epic in scope. And while one may look to Borges, Calvino, Winterson, even the Terrence Malik of Tree of Life for comparison, Drager’s vision is breathtakingly original and The Archive of Alternate Endings displays the confident technique and wild inventiveness of an already accomplished literary artist emerging into virtuosity.”
“I am so very, very grateful for the opportunity to spend a semester engaging with the literary community at Bard. It is a privilege to be listed among the extraordinary novelists and short story writers honored with this prize in the past,” said Drager. “For me, much of writing is about ongoing, long-term self-doubt, so support and recognition like this is simply invaluable. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the Bard Fiction Prize committee for seeing something in this strange book.”
Lindsey Drager is the author of three novels: The Sorrow Proper (Dzanc 2015), The Lost Daughter Collective (Dzanc 2017), and The Archive of Alternate Endings (Dzanc 2019). Her books have won a John Gardner Fiction Award and a Shirley Jackson Award; been listed as a “Best Book of the Year” in The Guardian and NPR; and twice been named a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. A Spanish language edition of her second book was published this year in Spain, and an Italian edition of The Archive of Alternate Endings is forthcoming. A 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient in Prose, she is currently the associate fiction editor of the literary journal West Branch and an assistant professor in the creative writing program at the University of Utah.
Akil Kumarasamy. Photo by Nina Subin.
Akil Kumarasamy, 2021 Recipient
Author Akil Kumarasamy has received the Bard Fiction Prize for her debut story collection, Half Gods (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2018). Kumarasamy’s one-semester residency at Bard College is scheduled for the 2021–22 academic year, during which time she will continue her writing and meet informally with students. Kumarasamy will give a public reading at Bard during her residency.
“Akil Kumarasamy’s Half-Gods is a breathtaking debut by one of those rare writers whose compassionate understanding—in this case, a multigenerational family with a frayed, crazy-quilt history—is matched by the narrative gifts necessary to bring her tales to life,” writes the Bard Fiction Prize committee. “While each individual story in this inventive collection is told in vivid, lusciously worded, image-rich prose, the overarching symphonic whole has—much like Jamaica Kincaid’s first book, At the Bottom of the River—the sweep and scope of a novel. What Kumarasamy has given us with Half-Gods is ultimately a meditation, as most great stories are, on time, memory, and hope for the future.”
“I’m very excited to receive the Bard Fiction Prize and to be part of the Bard community,” said Kumarasamy. “This has been such a whirlwind of a year, and, during these very uncertain times, I’m grateful for the support and the committee’s belief in my work. Really thrilled by the opportunity.”
Akil Kumarasamy is a writer from New Jersey and the author of the story collection, Half Gods, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2018, which was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and was the recipient of the Story Prize Spotlight Award and a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, American Short Fiction, Boston Review, among others. She has received fellowships from the University of East Anglia, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Yaddo, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She is an assistant professor at the Rutgers-Newark MFA program and her debut novel, Better Humans, is forthcoming with Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Photo: Kristi Jan Hoover
Clare Beams, 2020 Recipient
Author Clare Beams has received the Bard Fiction Prize for her debut collection of short stories, We Show What We Have Learned (Lookout Books 2016). Beams’ residency at Bard College is for the fall 2020 semester, during which time she will continue her writing and meet informally with students. Beams will give a public reading at Bard in spring 2020.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes: “The nine stories in Clare Beams’ debut collection of fiction, We Show What We Have Learned, range from factual, historical settings and characters to eerily fantastical ones, displaying a startling depth and an epic scale of imagination. While the characters, and the situations they find themselves in, are sometimes surreal, their psychologies are always absolutely real—fully, compassionately drawn. Every one of these stories has a world and a lifetime behind it, and every one is a compelling, disquieting, and immensely pleasurable journey, reverie, and dream for its reader. Clare Beams is a subtle, quiet master of short fiction, who writes in beautiful and exquisitely crafted prose.”
“I am so much more grateful to Bard and to the Bard Fiction Prize committee than I can possibly say for this recognition of my work and for this gift—one of the best gifts anyone could give me, as a writer who’s also a parent of young children—of time. To join this list of winners, so many who are heroes and heroines of mine, is an honor, and to join the inspiring Bard community is a thrill. I can’t wait to meet the students and faculty and work on my third book, a new novel, in their midst,” says Beams.
Clare Beams is the author of the story collection We Show What We Have Learned, which was a Kirkus Best Debut of 2016 and a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award. Her first novel, The Illness Lesson, will be published by Doubleday in February of 2020. Her fiction appears in One Story, n+1, Ecotone, The Common, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and elsewhere, and she has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two daughters, and has taught creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University and St. Vincent College.
Photo: Shelton Walsmith
Greg Jackson, 2019 Recipient
Author Greg Jackson has received the Bard Fiction Prize for his debut collection of short stories, Prodigals (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2016). Jackson’s lyrical and unflinching stories map the degradations of contemporary life with insight and grace. His residency at Bard College is for the Spring 2019 semester, during which time Jackson will continue his writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes: “The eight stories collected in Greg Jackson’s Prodigals take the reader all over the earth and across time, from a drug-addled weekend in Palm Springs to the remote provincial compound of a reclusive French tennis champion; a man drives into a hurricane with his psychiatrist, and a woman recounts a story about a summer spent painting dorm rooms in the summer of 1984 with a deranged coworker while Foucault dies and violent news from Central America hisses in the background. These stories concern troubled and deeply human characters trapped in mirrored mazes of playfully structured narrative, written in electric and often hilarious sentences. Prodigals is a book that delights, disturbs, and surprises around every corner, with the hand of a masterful author always twisting the kaleidoscope to transform dazzling patterns of light, shape, and color before our eyes.”
“What a privilege and a thrill it is to receive the Bard Fiction Prize and join such an illustrious ensemble of past winners. For the support and vote of encouragement, I am deeply grateful to this year’s prize committee. The chance to make Bard my home through the spring, to join its community and get to know its remarkable student body, is an incredible gift, and I look forward to the friendships and conversations I hope will develop over the course of my residency, as the days lengthen and spring descends on this sanctuary in the Hudson Valley,” says Jackson.
Greg Jackson’s fiction and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review, Vice, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from the University of Virginia and has received fellowships and residencies from the Fine Arts Work Center and MacDowell Colony. A finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, he was chosen by Granta in 2017 for their decennial list of Best Young American Novelists. In 2016 he received the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award for Prodigals, a book that the New York Times called “so bold and perceptive that it delivers a contact high.” He is currently at work on a novel, The Dimensions of a Cave, due out with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which looks at the future of reporting, technology, and truth. Before turning to fiction, he worked as an investigative journalist in Washington, D.C.
Carmen Maria Machado, 2018 Recipient
Author Carmen Maria Machado has received the Bard Fiction Prize for her debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties (Graywolf Press, 2017) In the collection, long-listed for the 2017 National Book Award and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Machado shapes startling, genre-bending narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies. Machado’s residency at Bard College is for the Fall 2018 semester, during which time she will continue her writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes: “The eight stories in Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties range playfully from a brilliant riff on Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to an apocalypse glimpsed incidentally through one woman’s sexual encounters to an obsessive exegesis of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that balloons into a hallucinatory, epic tapestry. Machado’s stories are bizarre, hilarious, sexy, and addictively entertaining while troubling, complex ideas about femininity, queerness, gender, and sexuality lurk around the corner of every sentence. This book is an oddball masterpiece.”
“I’m incredibly honored to receive the Bard Fiction Prize, the former winners of which I’ve long admired. I’m looking forward to joining the Bard community next fall, meeting the students I’ve heard so much about, and working on my essay collection and novel(s)-in-progress in the Hudson Valley as the weather turns,” says Machado.
Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Guernica, Electric Literature, NPR Books, and elsewhere. Her stories have been reprinted in Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best Horror of the Year, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and Best Women’s Erotica. Her memoir, House in Indiana, is forthcoming in 2019 from Graywolf Press.
She holds an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, Elizabeth George Foundation, CINTAS Foundation, Speculative Literature Foundation, Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, University of Iowa, Yaddo Corporation, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is an artist in residence at the University of Pennsylvania, and lives in Philadelphia with her wife.
Photo: Tom Storm
Karan Mahajan, 2017 Recipient
Author Karan Mahajan has been selected to receive the Bard Fiction Prize for his novel The Association of Small Bombs (Viking, 2016). A finalist for the 2016 National Book Award, Mahajan’s masterful narrative tells the story of two Delhi families ripped apart by a small bombing in a marketplace. Woven around the story of the Khuranas and the Ahmeds is the gripping tale of Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who has forsaken his own life for the independence of his homeland. Mahajan’s residency at Bard College is for the Fall 2017 semester, during which time he will continue his writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes, “In a world where terrorism is a persistent, devastating reality, Karan Mahajan’s singular achievement with The Association of Small Bombs is to bring insight and empathy to all sides of the conflict, to the innocent and the perpetrators, their families, their friends. His masterful narrative unfolds with the deaths of two schoolboys who with their companion, Mansoor Ahmed, are running a mundane errand in a Delhi marketplace, when a terrorist bomb is detonated. What follows is an ever-widening, compelling, and intricate story that portrays lives lived, on and off the grid, in the aftermath of this devastating act. The Bard Fiction Prize judges agreed that The Association of Small Bombs is an unusually wise and humane novel and its author, Mahajan, possesses exceptional literary gifts, rich insights into even the most malign of his characters, and a clear-eyed, compassionate vision of this perilous aspect of our times.”
Mahajan says, “I’ve admired the eclectic list of Bard Fiction Prize winners for a long time and never imagined joining their ranks. So this is a real thrill and an honor. I’m excited to be back in the New York area, with its gorgeous, serious greenery and long tradition of nurturing writers like Bellow and Ellison. I plan to work on my third novel at Bard and to generally infiltrate as many social and academic circles at the College as I can.”
Karan Mahajan was born in 1984 and grew up in New Delhi, India. His first novel, Family Planning, was a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize and was published in nine countries. His second novel, The Association of Small Bombs, is a finalist for the 2016 National Book Awards. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker online, the Believer, Paris Review Daily, Bookforum, and on NPR’s All Things Considered. A graduate of Stanford University and the Michener Center for Writers, he lives in Austin, Texas.
Photo by Molly Winters
Alexandra Kleeman, 2016 Recipient
Author Alexandra Kleeman has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2016. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence for one semester. Kleeman is receiving the prize for her debut novel You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine(Harper 2015). Called “brilliant and disturbing” by the New York Times, Kleeman’s darkly allegorical satire follows a woman known only as A, who lives in an unnamed American city with her roommate, B, and boyfriend, C, who wants her to join him on a reality dating show called That’s My Partner! A eats mostly popsicles and oranges and watches endless amounts of television, often just for the commercials. B is attempting to make herself a twin of A, who in turn hungers for something to give meaning to her life, something aside from C’s pornography addiction. Meanwhile, her neighbors across the street are a family who have begun “ghosting” themselves beneath white sheets, and whose garage door features a strange scrawl of graffiti: he who sits next to me, may we eat as one. Kleeman’s residency at Bard College is for the spring 2016 semester, during which time she will continue her writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading. For more information, please call 845-758-7087.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes: “Alexandra Kleeman’s You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine wraps a nightmare inside absurdity. It is a novel of alienation, paranoia, anxiety, and dread that puts a smile on your face. We live in a reality so sick and absurd already that satire has a hard time one-upping it these days, but Kleeman has done so in a way that is at once moving, haunting, hilarious, and surpassingly strange. It’s a novel about starvation that one reads with voracious hunger. It makes you laugh and creeps you out, it disturbs and delights and keeps you rooted in your chair, flipping the pages, submerged, sunk, lost, enchanted. Alexandra Kleeman’s fiction is so dark and sad precisely because it is so uproariously funny. It’s the laughter of the doomed.”
Kleeman says, “I’m thrilled to be given this chance to participate in Bard’s thriving, innovative literary community—which I’ve admired from afar for so many years. The gift of time and support that the Bard Fiction Prize offers is a rare and precious thing, and I’m grateful to the prize committee for reading my work with such generosity and to Bard for offering this incredible opportunity. The spring semester is still months away, but I’m already looking forward to meeting students and faculty, and melding our minds!”
Alexandra Kleeman has written for publications including the Paris Review, Zoetrope, Harper’s, Guernica, Tin House, Conjunctions, and n+1. She earned her MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has received grants and scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Santa Fe Art Institute. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in rhetoric at UC Berkeley. She lives in New York City.
Photo by Graham Webster
Laura van den Berg, 2015 Recipient
Author Laura van den Berg has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2015. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence for one semester. Van den Berg is receiving the prize for her book The Isle of Youth (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013). In this collection of stories, van den Berg explores the lives of women mired in secrecy and deception. The characters in these stories are at once vulnerable and dangerous, bighearted and ruthless—grappling with the choices they have made and searching for the clues to unlock their inner worlds. Van den Berg’s residency at Bard College will be for the spring 2015 semester, during which time she will continue her writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes: “Laura van den Berg’s stories are at once subtle and in extremis, as if the author were able to pressure-cook scenarios in which strangeness becomes uncomfortably familiar, and the seemingly ‘normal’ is unveiled as being, well, not so terribly normal. Her technical skills are beyond abundant and yet so complex as to be nearly erased during the act of reading. This is a writer of the first order, someone who pushes aside any notion of trendiness; a writer who has emerged on the literary scene full-voiced, and ready to knock down some walls. We embrace her project and her future.”
Van den Berg says, “I remain stunned with happiness and gratitude. The support and time the Bard Prize offers is an exceptionally rare gift and I am still wrapping my head around being this year’s lucky recipient. It is a huge honor to join the list of the prize’s past winners and I will be overjoyed to join the Bard community this spring.”
Laura van den Berg is the author of the story collections What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, and The Isle of Youth, which won the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was named a “Best Book of 2013” by more than a dozen venues and publications, including NPR, the Boston Globe, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Both collections were shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. The recipient of an O. Henry Award and a Pushcart Prize, van den Berg’s work has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Van den Berg’s first novel, Find Me, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2015. A native of Florida, she lives in the Boston area.
Photo by Paul Yoon
Bennett Sims, 2014 Recipient
Author Bennett Sims has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2014. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence at the College for one semester. Sims is receiving the prize for his debut novel, A Questionable Shape (Two Dollar Radio, 2013). In this penetrating novel set in Baton Rouge, Sims writes about a son looking for his undead father and transcends traditional zombie narrative to deliver a wise and philosophical rumination on the nature of memory and loss. Sims will be writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2014 semester, where he will continue his writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes: “The judges delight in welcoming to the literary community of Bard a writer whose first novel represents a powerful (and very readable) fusion of genres—a story about the vagaries of human perception which is also a wild romp of zombies biting through a curiously lyrical apocalypse. The writing is intricate, thoughtful, its characters are like most of us obsessed with games and devices, the text bejeweled with footnotes. The author was one of the last students of David Foster Wallace, who was the first reader of the first version of this haunting novel of love and estrangement.”
Bennett Sims was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and has studied at Pomona College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received a Provost Fellowship and a Michener-Copernicus Award after graduating. A Questionable Shape was published in 2013 by Two Dollar Radio. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in A Public Space, Conjunctions, Electric Literature, Tin House, and Zoetrope: All-Story.
Photo by Carmen Machado
Brian Conn, 2013 Recipient
Author Brian Conn has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2013. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence at the College for one semester. Conn is receiving the prize for his debut novel, The Fixed Stars (Fiction Collective 2, 2010). Centered on the “John’s Day” celebration of a small community, Conn’s experimental science fiction novel is set in a world that has retreated from urbanism into the pastoral, where citizens afflicted by a mysterious plague are routinely quarantined and reintegrated into society in rituals marked by a haunting brutality. Conn will be writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2013 semester, where he will continue his writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes: “What won the respect of the Bard Fiction Prize judges was the remarkable way the weird, perplexing bleakness of the imagined society is firmly held in place by a narrative style at once bewildered and lucid—it has the air of a kind of deadpan tragedy, of the sort Kafka scared us with, and made us yearn for more. The Bard Fiction Prize has been anxious to celebrate innovation in the novel—and in Conn’s The Fixed Stars we found a perfect match of inventive fable with disquietingly radical storytelling. The prose sparkles with unique images, and the narrative itself is wonderful, at times wondrous even, and a highly original formal work, full of life.”
Brian Conn’s work has appeared in both genre magazines and literary magazines, and The Fixed Stars, his first novel, appeared on Amazon.com’s list of the ten best science fiction and fantasy books of 2010. He is a graduate of Yale University, with an M.F.A. from Brown University, where he began writing The Fixed Stars and cofounded Birkensnake, a fiction annual, with Joanna Ruocco. He lives in California.
Photo by Michelle Carriger
Benjamin Hale, 2012 Recipient
Author Benjamin Hale has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2012. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence at the College for one semester. Hale is receiving the prize for his debut novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (Twelve, 2011). Hale will be writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2012 semester, where he will continue his writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes: Benjamin Hale is a rare young writer, whose work is not only precocious but takes an evolutionary leap. Grounded in classical learning and the wisdom of literary predecessors, his debut novel swings valiantly through the trees with diction and vigor that are completely his own. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore dares to speak in the voice of a chimpanzee: an articulate and morally engaged one, at that. This beast becomes the mouthpiece for literary humanism, and embodies as well the fierce problematic of the marginal—speaking up for life’s outsiders. Yet the heart that beats beneath Bruno’s savage breast is the novel’s most fiercely recognizable achievement. The central, scandalous love story stands in for all passions that dare not speak their name. No human could tell it so truthfully.
Benjamin Hale is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received a Provost’s Fellowship to complete his novel The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, which went on to win a Michener-Copernicus Award and was published by Twelve in January 2011. It has been called “a brilliant, unruly brute of a book” by the Washington Post, “an absolute pleasure” by the New York Times Book Review, and “a brave and visionary work of genius” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Hale has been a night-shift baker, a security guard, a trompe l’oeil painter, a cartoonist, an illustrator and a technical writer. He grew up in Colorado and now lives in New York City.
Karen Russell, 2011 Recipient
Short story writer and novelist Karen Russell has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2011. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence at the College for one semester. Russell is receiving the prize for her book, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (Random House, 2006). She will be writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2011 semester, where she will continue her writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes: “Karen Russell is one of those rare writers whose work shimmers not only with technical brilliance (her prose shines with sheer exuberance in every sentence) and with wildly original characters and scenarios, but she is someone whose work could be described as ‘wise.’ For all of her imaginative hijinks and hilarities, there’s a still center, a kind of spiritual gravity in her turning world, an understanding that sees through the absurd to the very heart of our humanness. Her marvelous collection of stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, might be read by some as ‘surreal.’ But, in fact, once the reader is acclimated to the unfamiliar places Russell spins into being, any sense that one is being narrated through some dreamscape quickly evaporates. Minotaurs, underwater ghosts, feral wolf girls, post-prophetic insomniac boys—these characters become our fictional intimates, ones we find ourselves relating to and embracing, ones we ultimately begin to understand are mirrors into our own experience. To read Russell’s stories is to enter into realms that are simultaneously inviting and appalling, bewitching and bewildering, lonely and loving, fantastic as an unbridled vision and familiar as a teaspoon. She’s every bit as comfortable writing sly slapstick laugh-out-loud comedy as she is plumbing the calamitous, pitiful depths of people who have gone astray, been cast away, are lost and silently miserable. We were impressed by how often her stories are about so many of the biggest themes. Identity and the complexities of growing up, negotiating that unimaginable bridge from childhood into adulthood—this is perhaps the theme that most interests her. Her characters seem always to be searching for something. Lost siblings, lost parents, lost innocence. She writes about island life and life on the mainland. Outsiders are one of her specialties. People in search of their souls.”
“I am overjoyed and deeply honored to be the recipient of the 2011 Bard Fiction Prize. It’s a pretty staggering honor to receive this award—caramba, look at the company I get to keep! ” says Karen Russell. “I am so excited to work with Bard's extraordinary students this coming spring.”
Karen Russell, a native of Miami, has been featured in both The New Yorker’s debut fiction issue and New York magazine’s list of 25 people to watch under the age of 26. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program and is the 2005 recipient of the Transatlantic Review/Henfield Foundation Award; her fiction has recently appeared in Granta, Zoetrope, Oxford American, Conjunctions, and The New Yorker. Twenty-nine years old, she lives in New York City.
Samantha Hunt, 2010 Recipient
Novelist Samantha Hunt has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2010. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence at the College for one semester. Hunt is receiving this year's Bard Fiction Prize for her second novel, The Invention of Everything Else (Houghton Mifflin 2008). She will be writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2010 semester, where she will continue her writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes: "Nikola Tesla was a pioneer of alternating current electricity, which led to creations that helped generate and drive the world as we know it. Through an imaginative act of narrative wizardry, 2010 Bard Fiction Prize winner Samantha Hunt has, in her wise, enchanting novel The Invention of Everything Else, reinvented Nikola Tesla. Evoking a mesmerizing interplay between the aged, dying Tesla and a young chambermaid named Louisa who works at the Hotel New Yorker, where the inventor lived so many years, Hunt vividly rediscovers the essential values of truisms too easily forgotten. The necessary but difficult dialogue between past and present, the beloved and the unreachable, the grounded and winged, the real and unreal, the dead and living, the impossible and possible—all these are conjured with great delicacy and intelligence in this sophisticated, richly metaphoric novel. Samantha Hunt is audacious in her use of divergent genres—historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, urban realism—just as she is utterly convincing in her invention of one of the world's great inventors. When Hunt's Tesla concludes, 'There is only one world. This one. The dream is real. The ordinary is wonderful. The wonderful is ordinary,' we are compelled to believe."
Samantha Hunt is the author of the acclaimed first novel The Seas (MacAdam/Cage 2004), which won the first-ever "5 under 35" Award from the National Book Foundation. Her fiction has been featured in the New Yorker, McSweeneys, A Public Space, Tin House, Esquire, Cabinet, and Village Voice, and on This American Life. Time Out New York called her "a writer to watch," and Dave Eggers described her as having "one of the most distinctive and unforgettable voices I have read in years." The Invention of Everything Else was short-listed for the 2009 Orange Prize, 2009 Believer Book Award, and named Best Book of 2008 by the Washington Post. The Village Voice called "Hunt's fascination with language . . . unmistakable, resulting in beautiful, intimate observations . . . elegant, inspired." The Chicago Tribune called the novel "Glorious . . . pages of prose: daring and delicious, perfectly calibrated, fresh but not raw, original but neither off-putting nor disconcertingly strange." Hunt received her MFA from Warren Wilson College and teaches at Pratt Institute. Visit her on the web at www.samanthahunt.net.
Fiona Maazel, 2009 Recipient
Writer Fiona Maazel has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2009. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence at the College for one semester. Maazel is receiving this year’s Bard Fiction Prize for her first novel, Last Last Chance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008). She will be writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2009 semester, where she will continue her writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
Last Last Chance is the story of Lucy Clark, a drug addict with a highly dysfunctional family who navigates the American landscape in the wake of a lethal plague spread by terrorists. According to the New York Times, the novel is characterized by “funny, lacerating prose.” Publisher’s Weekly calls it “brimming with wit, ideas, and delightfully screwball humor.”
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes, “Fiona Maazel’s first novel Last Last Chance is an imaginative tour de force, at once wise and whacked, elegiac and fantastical, hilarious and hair-raising. Sentence for sentence, scene for scene, Maazel is one of the most gifted prose stylists to emerge in recent years, her work reminding us at times of Kathy Acker or the late David Foster Wallace, but with a voice all her own. With unflinching eye and scalpel-sharp prose, she has created an America that teeters on the edge of apocalypse as its benighted denizens must chance their way through the complexities of an addiction-and-recovery culture, one threatened by a ‘superplague’ virus, one given to love lost and lost again. The world according to Lucy Clark—drug-addict, seeker, survivor—is populated with an astonishing array of characters, from her grandmother Agneth who believes in reincarnation, to her despairing boyfriend Stanley who is haunted by his dead wife. But it is Lucy, finally, we care about most. Lucy whose triumph it is, after all the self-and-otherwise-induced hells she has soldiered through, to ‘think clearly . . . at last,’ to be able to answer the towering question, ‘What happened to me?’ Fiona Maazel’s Last Last Chance is the work of a writer whose prodigious gifts as a stylist and blistering intelligence promise a limitless potential for future work.”
Maazel is the former managing editor of the Paris Review and the recipient of a 2005 Lannan Literary Fellowship. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, Boston Book Review, Mississippi Review, Tin House, Bomb, and Salon.com among other publications. She graduated from Williams College and received an M.F.A. from Bennington College.
Salvador Plascencia, 2008 Recipient
Writer Salvador Plascencia has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2008. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence at the College for one semester. Plascencia is receiving this year's Bard Fiction Prize for his first novel, The People of Paper (McSweeney's, 2005). He will be writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2008 semester, where he will continue his writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes, "Sal Plascencia's debut novel, The People of Paper, is a novel of exceptional inventiveness and beauty, in which formal innovation lives side by side with extraordinary storytelling, enhancing rather than replacing emotional intensity. The categories of magic realism, postmodernism, or urban fabulism, while applicable, are utterly inadequate to describe this metafictional marvel, which takes us from Vatican City to Hollywood to Guadalajara and yet transcends time and place. From a uniquely porous species of paper, Plascencia creates, between Mexico and California, a membrane that is permeable and almost otherworldly. His novel is sensual, millennial, and mythological, and its imagination abounds with empathy."
Part memoir, part lies, The People of Paper is about loving a woman made of paper and the wounds inflicted by first love and sharp objects. After his wife leaves him, Federico de la Fe and his daughter, Little Merced, depart the town of Las Tortugas, Mexico, and head for Los Angeles. There, with the aid of a local street gang and the prophetic powers of a baby Nostradamus, they engage in an epic battle to find a cure for sadness. Mechanical tortoises, disillusioned saints hiding in wrestling rings, a woman made of paper, and Rita Hayworth are a few of the players whose destinies intertwine in this story of war and lost love. The novel's unique layout features columns of text running in different directions across the page, blacked-out sections, and a name that has literally been cut out of the book.
Salvador Plascencia received a B.A. from Whittier College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University. The People of Paper has been translated into over half a dozen languages. Plascencia's short stories and reviews have also appeared in Los Angeles Times, Tin House, and McSweeney's. Formerly an assistant lecturer at the University of Southern California, Plascencia is a native of El Monte, California.
Peter Orner, 2007 Recipient
Writer Peter Orner has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2007. Orner is receiving this year's Bard Fiction Prize for his first novel, set in Namibia, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo (Little, Brown and Company, 2006). He will be writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2007 semester, where he will continue his writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee was impressed by Orner's evocation of an American sensibility coming to terms with Namibia and its proud, eloquent people in his novel, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo. "With the concentrated linguistic energy of an imagist poet, Orner creates remarkable miniatures: whole stories in his first book (Esther Stories) and tantalizingly brief chapters in this new novel, the committee wrote. His narrative vision allows the reader to reside concurrently in suggestive and declarative realms, which tell the story of intimacy among the humiliations of social and racial inequities."
A primary concern of Orner's is "how place influences character." In The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, he draws upon his own experience as a teacher in Namibia in the early '90s. Orner's novel explores the life and people of Goas, a semidesert area. His title character is a beautiful veteran of its war of independence against South Africa who returns to the Catholic all-boys school (where her brother-in-law is the principal) with her illegitimate son. Mavala Shikongo becomes the object of all her colleague's desires, including the American teacher who is the narrator of the story. Dave Eggers notes in the Guardian that this book "has the same sort of episodic structure, lyrical prose and completely hypnotic effect as the novels of Michael Ondaatje. . . It's a gorgeously written book, very funny, and bursting with soul."
Margot Livesey of the New York Times wrote of Orner's short story collection, Esther Stories (Houghton Mifflin, 2001), "Orner doesn't simply bring his characters to life, he gives them souls. Brooding, mysterious, ineffable, beautiful." Esther Stories was a New York Times Notable Book, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and winner of the Samuel Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction. Orner is the recipient of a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiction, 2002–03 Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a 2003 Gold Medal for Fiction from the Association of Educational Publishers. His work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories (Houghton Mifflin, 2001), Pushcart Prize Anthology (Pushcart Press, 2001), Lost Tribe Anthology: Jewish Fiction from the Edge (Harper Collins, 2003), Future Dictionary of America (McSweeney's, 2004), and Chicago Noir (Akashic Books, 2005), and has appeared in a number of national publications, including the Atlantic Monthly, Bomb, Harvard Review, McSweeney's, and Paris Review. Orner holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa, a degree in law from Northeastern University School of Law, and a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan. He lives in San Francisco and teaches writing at San Francisco State University.
Edie Meidav, 2006 Recipient
Writer Edie Meidav has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2006. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence at the College for one semester. Meidav is receiving this year’s Bard Fiction Prize for her second novel Crawl Space, set in rural France in 1940s and late 1990s, and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2005). She will be writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2006 semester, where she will continue her writing, hold weekly colloquia with students, and give a public reading.
The Bard Fiction Prize committee notes that in Crawl Space, “Edie Meidav writes with a confidence and maturity uncommon among young novelists. Her prose demonstrates visible warmth for humanity, in all its breadth and narrowness, even as she takes on the difficult task of bringing to life an repellent character: Emile Poulquet, a fugitive French collaborator who singlehandedly sent thousands of Jews to their deaths during the Nazi occupation.”
In one final attempt to evade justice, Poulquet has returned to his hometown to deliver his last will and testament to the woman who never returned his love. Temporarily adopted by a group of young squatters, Poulquet finds himself on the other side of discrimination, living both physically and metaphorically in a dark “crawl space,” where the living bury their dead and hide their memories.
Meidav takes on important issues in this novel—crimes against humanity, guilt and culpability, the nature of memory and forgetting and forgiveness—and she grapples with them gracefully and courageously, wrapping thorny complexities in surprising, evocative imagery, as when she reveals that the narrator’s hometown “had the beauty you might find in the tight crevices of a fist.”
Edie Meidav’s first novel, The Far Field (Houghton Mifflin), was called “ambitious and distinguished” by the Los Angeles Times and is an investigation of Buddhism, the effects of colonialism, and American blindness. Meidav began The Far Field while a Fulbright Fellowship recipient in Sri Lanka. The novel received the following awards and prizes: the 26th Annual Janet Kafka Heidinger Award for the Best Novel Written by an American Woman, the Los Angeles Times Best Books of 2001 citation, the Village Voice award for Writers on the Verge, and an Emerging Writer award from the Vermont Studio Center. Meidav’s work has appeared in the Village Voice, Conjunctions, The American Voice, Ms., New Letters, Artweek, and other publications. She is the recipient of writing fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Cummington Community for the Arts, Fundación Valparaíso in Spain, the Yeats Institute in Ireland, and the Eisendrath Fellowship program in Israel, and she has served on panels judging submissions to the National Endowment for the Arts, Yaddo, and the Loft Mentor Series. Meidav received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master in fine arts degree from Mills College. She lives in California, where she is director of the MA/MFA program in Writing and Consciousness at the New College of California (San Francisco).
Paul La Farge, 2005 Recipient
Writer Paul La Farge has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2005. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer-in-residence at Bard College for one semester. La Farge is receiving this year's Bard Fiction Prize for his novel Haussmann, or the Distinction, published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux (2001). He will be writer-in-residence at Bard College for the spring 2005 semester, where he will continue his writing and will hold weekly colloquia with Bard students and give a public reading.
Bard Fiction Prize judges Mary Caponegro, Robert Kelly, and Bradford Morrow describe La Farge's Haussmann, or the Distinction, as "a structurally elegant narrative, lighthandedly wise and wittily profound, where characters of a folkloric simplicity interweave with urgent sophisticates in nineteenth-century Paris, or rather in that shimmering zone between history and its shadow: the dreams a city makes us dream and fancy we remember."
Paul La Farge is the author of two novels: The Artist of the Missing, and Haussmann, or the Distinction, which was a New York Times Notable Book for 2001. His stories have appeared in Conjunctions, Fence, STORY, McSweeney's and elsewhere; and his essays have been published in the Village Voice, The Believer, and on salon.com. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002 and is currently working on his third novel, which is about airplanes. Meanwhile, his fourth book, The Facts of Winter, will be published by McSweeney's Books in 2005.
Monique Truong, 2004 Recipient
Writer Monique Truong has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2004. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer-in-residence at Bard College for one semester. Truong, whose first novel The Book of Salt was published in 2003 by Houghton Mifflin, was writer-in-residence at Bard College for the spring 2004 semester.
Bard Fiction Prize judges Mary Caponegro, Robert Kelly, and Bradford Morrow recall a phrase from The Book of Salt in citing Truong as this year’s prize recipient: “ ‘Me, I am no good at poetry,’ says Binh, as he savors the secret of salt flowers ‘like a kiss in the mouth.’” This taste, which declares itself and then deepens and recedes, is the reader’s sensation in enjoying every page of The Book of Salt, according to the judges. “Unlike the character Binh, Monique Truong is at every sentence a poet, borrowing the lives of America’s most original and outrageous expatriate and her partner [Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas], and inserting another foreigner into their employ: an intimate outsider who reveals, through beautiful, subtle narrative sequencing, what it is to be other.”
Monique Truong was born in Saigon in 1968 and came to the United States at age 6. She graduated from Yale University and the Columbia University School of Law, going on to specialize in intellectual property law. The Book of Salt, was published in 2003 by Houghton Mifflin in the U.S. and by Chatto & Windus in the U.K., where it has been nominated for the Guardian First Book Award.
Truong co-edited the anthology Watermark: Vietnamese American Poetry & Prose, published in 1998 by the Asian American Writers' Workshop. Her writing has appeared in the anthologies Bold Words: A Century of Asian American Writing (Rutgers, 2001), Of Vietnam: Identities in Dialogue (Palgrave, 2001), and An Interethnic Companion to Asian American Literature (Cambridge, 1997), among others. She was named the John Gardner Fellow in Fiction at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference in 2003 and was awarded a Lannan Foundation Writing Residency in 2001. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Emily Barton, 2003 Recipient
Writer Emily Barton has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize, it was announced today. The prize, established last year by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer-in-residence at Bard College for one semester. Barton will be writer-in-residence at Bard College for the spring 2003 semester.
Adventurous, original, intelligent, and thematically provocative, Emily Bartonís first novel, The Testament of Yves Gundron, combines all the characteristics one looks for in a promising young writer," stated the judges in announcing the selection. "With prodigious self-confidence, she has invented in this work a thoroughly convincing mythic parallel universe. Far from the usual autobiographical first novel, Barton has set for herself a much more difficult challenge—to try, through the medium of fiction, to pose for her readers the largest possible questions about what it means to be alive in a world that craves progress at any cost."
Emily Barton was raised in New Jersey and earned a B.A. degree in English literature from Harvard and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the University of Iowa. Her short fiction has appeared in Story and American Short Fiction, and her book reviews appear regularly in The New York Times Book Review and Bookforum. Her first novel, The Testament of Yves Gundron (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2000), was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and was nominated for the Guardian Fiction Prize. She resides in Brooklyn, where the novel on which she is presently working is set.
Nathan Englander, 2002 Recipient
The first annual Bard Fiction Prize has been awarded to writer Nathan Englander. The prize, established this year by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer-in-residence at Bard College for one semester. Englander will be writer-in-residence at Bard College for the spring 2002 semester.
"Bard is honored to initiate this new prize for younger American writers," said Bard College President Leon Botstein. "The award exemplifies Bard’s long tradition of teaching literature and writing and its dedication to encouraging and supporting our best young writers. The judges for the Bard Fiction Prize were highly impressed by the depth and range of Mr. Englander’s stories, and the originality and the humanity expressed in his work. We are gratified to have found such an outstanding recipient for the first annual Bard Fiction Prize, and wish to thank the donor and the BFP committee for making the dream of this prize a reality," he said.
Englander was born in New York in 1970. He now divides his time between Jerusalem and New York. Short fiction by Englander has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, American Short Fiction, Story Magazine, and the anthologies The Art of the Story and Neurotica. His collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, was published by Knopf. Englander is currently working on his first novel, also to be published by Knopf. He studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, received a B.A. degree from Binghamton University, and an M.F.A. degree from the University of Iowa.
In a statement announcing the award, the judges noted that "in each of the nine stories that make up his beautiful first book, Nathan Englander looks at the human condition through the lens of Jewish tradition with utter and compassionate clarity. His gift for mining the extraordinary from the ordinary imbues his words with the quality of revelation. Englander is first and last a brilliant storyteller. He makes accessible an esoteric world, and the means by which he accomplishes this, in story after story, are consistently arresting and appealing. He offers us simplicity, intimacy, and immense sympathy; seldom is edification this pleasurable."