Photo: Graham Jepson
2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize winner announced
Lisa Ko of Brooklyn has claimed the 2016 PEN / Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for her novel The Leavers, which will be published by Algonquin Books in 2017.
The novel follows a 10-year-old boy after his Chinese-American immigrant mother leaves for work one morning and doesn’t come back. Soon, her son Deming finds himself adopted by a Caucasion family and renamed Daniel Wilkonson, incorporated into a culture nothing like the one he’s known and loved, while puzzling over why his mother might have left him. Following these narrative threads, The Leavers asks whether a child is better served being raised by adoptive parents with their English fluency and economic privilege, or with his family and culture of origin, despite having few educational and financial resources. A novel that draws links between economic migration and the adoption industry, The Leavers is, as Laila Lalami says, “A rich and sensitive portrait of lives lived across borders, cultures and languages … one of the most engaging, deeply probing, and beautiful books I have read this year.”
Ko's fiction has appeared in Apogee Journal, Narrative, Copper Nickel, Storychord, One Teen Story, Brooklyn Review, and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in Best American Short Stories 2016. A founding co-editor of Hyphen and a fiction editor at Drunken Boat, Lisa has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the MacDowell Colony, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, Writers OMI at Ledig House, the Jerome Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, the Van Lier Foundation, Hawthornden Castle, the I-Park Foundation, the Anderson Center, the Constance Saltonstall Foundation, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center.
Award-winning director 'surprise' guest at Kingsolver Earth Day event
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Barbara Kingsolver, speaking at the Paramount Theater April 22, called special guest Nicole Kassell to the stage during the program, to discuss their collaboration in bringing one of Kingsolver’s novels to film.
Kassell is an award-winning television and film director whose stunning first feature film “The Woodsman” premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and received numerous accolades. She was named by Variety as one of ten “directors to watch.” She also directs episodic television, including “The Killing,” “The Americans,” “The Following” and “Rectify. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
Long-time friends, Kingsolver and Kassell discussed their work together on the adaptation of Prodigal Summer, which was selected for the 2013 Sundance Writers and Producers Lab. The movie is currently in development with producer Big Beach Films.All proceeds from the evening benefited the nonprofit Virginia Organizing, one of Kingsolver's favorite grassroots efforts in the state where she lives.
Vigil for Ilham Tohti follows presentation of Bellwether award
Barbara Kingsolver joined hundreds who gathered in support of Ilham Tohti, the Uyghur writer and scholar recently sentenced to life in prison in China on unfounded charges of separatism. The candlelight vigil in New York City Sept. 29 followed the 2014 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony, where Kingsolver had presented this year's Bellwether Prize to Ron Childress.
Kingsolver read a haunting statement from Tohti at the vigil, which took place just outside The New School Auditorium at 66 West 12th Street. The statement, written in 2013 to be published in the event of his arrest, foreshadows Tohti's later imprisonment and persecution, and avows Tohti's commitment to defend and uphold human rights even as the Chinese government closed in.
The following are excerpts from Tohti's statement that she read:
"There is a lot of tension around here. In the past few days, I have been under constant surveillance by police vehicles and national security police officers... I have realized that I don’t have too many good days ahead of me and I have a feeling that they [the Chinese government] may not have the best intentions in dealing with my situation. Therefore, I feel that it is necessary for me to leave a few words behind before I no longer have the ability to do so.
"I would like to emphasize that currently, there are no physical marks or bruises on my body. About two months ago, the school performed physical examinations on all the teachers, including myself. The results of my physical examinations have been recorded on their computers and were sent to all major hospitals in Beijing. They should be available in their archives... If I do pass away in the near future, know that it is not because of natural illness and it certainly will not be suicide. I am a Uyghur, a father, and a righteous man. I do not commend suicide and neither does the Uyghur culture. Therefore it is impossible that I will ever commit suicide.
"I will never say anything that is against my morals and principles, nor will I ever say anything that may harm my people [Uyghurs]. If I say anything that deviates from my morals after my arrest, know that those are not my words. Any word that is at conflict with my morals or brings harm to the Uyghur people would most likely have been fabricated by the Chinese government... Regardless of the interrogation strategy or the torture method, regardless of what body parts I am about to lose, know that I will never speak words that will work against the interest of Uyghurs, nor will I ever betray the Uyghurs.
"The path I have pursued all along is an honorable and a peaceful path. I have relied only on pen and paper to diplomatically request the human rights, legal rights, and autonomous regional rights for the Uyghurs... I have relentlessly appealed for equality for Uyghurs in regards to their individuality, religion, and culture. I have persistently demanded justice from the Chinese government. However, I have never pursued a violent route and I have never joined a group that utilized violence.
"Many of my friends have been arrested lately. The number of police officers around me has been gradually increased. They have been watching me even on school campus.
"I have always led by example through advocating for diplomatic and peaceful ways to request justice and equality. I believe that Beijing is the ideal place for education, and I believe that this city is a key to achieving equality and justice.
"Without the understanding and support of all of the 1.3 billion people in China, it would be extremely difficult for us to achieve our human rights goals. One of my foremost objectives so far has been to introduce and explain who we really are to the Han Chinese population, and this is how I have gained so many friends and supporters who are Han Chinese.
"I have never spoken like this before, but I am almost confident that the Chinese government is trying to get rid of me this time."
Climate change topic of Kingsolver testimony for Pennsylvania hearing
Barbara Kingsolver provided testimony to a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on climate change for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Aug. 26, 2014. Her remarks were read by Julie Slavet, executive director of the Tookany / Tacony-Frankford Water Shed.
Kingsolver to receive Library of Virginia lifetime achievement award in Richmond
The Library of Virginia will honor Barbara Kingsolver with the 2014 Literary Lifetime Achievement Award, at the library's Annual Literary Awards Celebration in Richmond Oct. 18. Click here to learn more and see the lists of finalists in other categories.
Berea College convocation will feature Kingsolver's 'Novel Perspective'
Barbara Kingsolver will take a Berea College stage November 6, alongside best-selling author Silas House, who is also the college's National Endowment for the Humanities Chair in Appalachian Studies. The two will be paired for the Berea, Ky., college's convocation, in a presentation titled "Writing and Roots: Barbara Kingsolver's Novel Perspective, a Public Conversation with Silas House."
2014 PEN / Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction winner announced
Ron Childress has been named the winner of the 2014 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for his manuscript And West Is West. Selected by award judges Terry McMillan, Nancy Pearl, and Kathy Pories, Childress will receive $25,000 and a publishing contract with Algonquin Books.
Click here to learn more about the author and his novel, And West is West.
Annotated Poisonwood Bible to be auctioned, benefiting PEN center
A first-edition copy of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, annotated, will be auctioned by Christies New York this fall, to benefit The Pen American Center.
According to the PEN website, "Seventy-five writers and artists have written or drawn directly in a first edition or a significant catalogue of their own work." The "extraordinary collection of rare first editions ... have in most cases been heavily annotated throughout by the author."
" The works are startlingly original, and represent a significant contribution to our cultural heritage."
A video featuring several authors' perspectives of the project can be found here.
Harvard school bestows 2013 Global Environmental Citizen award
Barbara Kingsolver was the recipient of the Harvard School of Public Health "2013 Global Environmental Citizen Award," for "outstanding contributions to furthering knowledge about the global environment and promoting awareness about the urgent need to protect it." http://chge.med.harvard.edu/awards/2013-global-environmental-citizen-award
Science in fiction topic of Sweet Briar article
Sweet Briar College Magazine has published an article about Barbara Kingsolver's meticulous use of science in her fiction, following the author's address for the 2013 Julia B. Waxter Environmental Forum at the college in March.
Kingsolver was invited to speak at the forum after her pre-Flight Behavior research led her to Sweet Briar professor of biology Lincoln Brower, known internationally for his research into and expertise on the Monarch butterfly.
To read the article, click here. A sidebar from the same issue featuring Lincoln Brower exclusively can also be found on the website.
Press during European tour for 'Flight Behaviour' offers readers new insights
Barbara Kingsolver has returned from a weeks-long tour in Europe for the paperback release of "Flight Behaviour," published by Faber & Faber in the United Kingdom and Rivages in France.
The English portion of the tour included engagements for the Hay Festival of Literature in Wales; the Charleston Festival in Sussex; the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre; and the Guardian Book Club in London. Additionally, Kingsolver attended The Women's Prize for Fiction events, as one of six short-listed authors. (The prize was formerly known as The Orange Prize.)
In France, interviews were scheduled to meet magazine publishing deadlines, and articles will appear at about the time of Flight Behavior's release there. Readers interested in the French translation of the novel should watch for the press items and the Rivages edition to be available in September.
Kingsolver among Women's Prize short-listed authors for Flight Behavior
Barbara Kingsolver moved from The Women's Prize long list to short list recently, alongside authors Kate Atkinson, A.M. Homes, Hilary Mantel, Maria Semple and Zadie Smith. The winner will be announced at an award ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall in Southbank Centre, London, on June 5.
Launched in 1996, the prize (formerly known as The Orange Prize) is awarded annually and celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world. Kingsolver won in 2010 for The Lacuna. An article on this year's literary achievements can be found here.
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Other recent honors for Flight Behavior have included: the Independent Bookseller Award Shortlist; Best Literary Author of 2012 and Best Literary Fiction of 2012 in the first annual BEA Armchair Awards (Book Expo America); a Nautilus gold award in fiction and silver award in ecology / environment writing; The Orion Press annual Book Award Shortlist; and a Library of Virginia Literary Award nomination.
Flight Behavior audiobook wins raves
For her reading of the Flight Behavior audiobook, Barbara Kingsolver has been named one of AudioFile magazine's "Best Voices of the Year 2012."
According to Publisher's Weekly, "Kingsolver proves an excellent reader of her own work, perfectly conveying both Dellarobia’s gossipy, accented smalltown neighbors and the distinctive Jamaican accent of intellectual Ovid, the butterfly scientist." See http://reviews.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-212432-6 for the full review.
The full list of AudioFile "Best Voices" award recipients can be found here, beginning on page 27; an interview with Kingsolver and review of the audiobook can be found on page 40. Or, for the interview only, click here.
Kingsolver interviews Al Gore on stage at San Francisco Arts & Lectures
Former Vice President Al Gore discussed his new book, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, in a conversation with Barbara Kingsolver at the San Francico Arts & Lectures Herbst Theatre Feb. 12.
Gore now spends the majority of his time as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit devoted to solving the climate crisis. His other bestselling books are Earth in the Balance, An Inconvenient Truth, The Assault on Reason, and Our Choice. He is a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
Research leads Kingsolver to a date before an audience in Sweet Briar, Va.
The 2013 Julia B. Waxter Environmental Forum at Sweet Briar College featured a reading and conversation with Barbara Kingsolver March 21 and 22. While doing research for her novel Flight Behavior, Kingsolver interviewed Sweet Briar professor of biology Lincoln Brower extensively. Brower is known internationally for his research into and expertise on the Monarch butterfly. The important encounter led to planning for the March event.
Hindman Settlement School to host Kingsolver during weeklong workshop
Kentucky native Barbara Kingsolver will be the keynote speaker at Hindman Settlement School’s 36th Annual Appalachian Writers’ Workshop (July 28-Aug 2, 2013).
Hindman Settlement School hosts the annual weeklong workshop for writers and those interested in folk arts and culture. This year’s workshop includes sessions on Appalachian literature, nonfiction, poetry, short story, memoir, novel and special sessions on songwriting and writing for film and new media.
Other guest staff who will be leading workshop events are:
Poetry: Tony Crunk | George Ella Lyon
Short Story: Holly Goddard Jones | Alex Taylor
Novel: Mark Powell | Glenn Taylor
Memoir: Karen Salyer McElmurray
Nonfiction: Fenton Johnson
Appalachian Literature: Silas House
Songwriting: Caroline Herring
Film & New Media: Jack Wright
Introductions: Robert Gipe | Marianne Worthington
Senior Writer-In-Residence: Gurney Norman
For more information, click here.
New novel Flight Behavior released in November 2012
Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless young mother on the verge of settling for permanent disappointment, having given up other plans when she became pregnant and married in high school. Now twenty-nine, she lives with flattening deprivation and domestic disharmony on a failing sheep farm in eastern Tennessee. Seeking short-term escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man, she hikes up a back road to meet him in the novel's opening scene, and instead encounters something she can't understand: a forested valley filled with silent red fire that strikes her as a miracle. It proves to be something far more complex, sparking diverging explanations from scientists, religious leaders, politicians, and the media. For Dellarobia the event drives irrevocable changes as she is forced to confront and lock horns with her family, her church, her community, her continent, and finally, her world.
Kingsolver’s fourteenth book, Flight Behavior (HarperCollins) deepens her exploration of timely themes: the novel's subject is climate change, along with the media exploitation and political opportunism that lie at the root of what may be our most urgent modern dilemma. In a suspenseful plot that brings together rural farmers and urbane scientists in a bewildering emergency, the novel dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precariously shifting world.
Library Journal review of Flight Behavior
Dellarobia Turnbow is in a perpetual state of fight or flight. Married at 17 to kind, dull Cub, she finds even the satisfaction of motherhood small consolation for the stultifying existence on her in-laws’ struggling Tennessee sheep farm. When a fluke of nature upends the monotony of her life, Dellarobia morphs into the church’s poster child for a miracle, an Internet phenomenon, and a woman on the verge of unexpected opportunity as scientists, reporters, and ecotourists converge on the Turnbow property. Orange Prize winner Kingsolver (The Lacuna) performs literary magic, generously illuminating both sides of the culture wars, from the global-warming debate to public education in America. It’s a joy to watch Dellarobia and her precocious son, Preston, blossom under the tutelage of entomologist Ovid Byron. VERDICT . Highly recommended. —Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL
Kingsolver among speakers at Book Expo America kick-off event
New York City, June 5, 2012—Barbara Kingsolver joined Master of Ceremonies Stephen Colbert and authors Junot Diaz and Jo Nesbo on stage at the Book Expo America “Authors Breakfast” June 5, 2012.
To learn more about the event or to read interviews Kingsolver gave while at the BEA, click:
Susan Nussbaum announced winner of 2012 PEN / Bellwether Prize
New York City, June 5, 2012—PEN American Center, the largest branch of the world’s oldest literary and human rights organization, joined Barbara Kingsolver, founder of the Bellwether Prize, and Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing, to announce Susan Nussbaum as the winner of the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Nussbaum received $25,000 and a publishing contract with Algonquin Books for her manuscript Good Kings Bad Kings.
Nussbaum traveled to New York City for the announcement, which was made by Barbara Kingsolver at BookExpo America, in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Kingsolver and Nussbaum were joined by PEN president Peter Godwin, Algonquin Books, and previous Bellwether winners Heidi Durrow (The Girl Who Fell from the Sky) and Hillary Jordan (Mudbound) at the press conference for editors, publishers, agents, press, booksellers, and librarians from around the country. (Click http://www.algonquinbooksblog.com/blog/pen-bellwether-prize/ for more information.)
Kingsolver reads from new work at Lexington, Ky., conference
Barbara Kingsolver was the keynote speaker for the Books-in-Progress Conference June 8 and 9, sponsored by The Carnegie Center in Lexington, Ky. She read from new work June 8 at 7 p.m., at the Lexington Convention Center’s Bluegrass Ballroom Atrium. The conference offered writing and publishing workshops, as well as one-on-one meetings between writers and literary agents.
Kingsolver, Mattea take stage together
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.: Barbara Kingsolver joined Grammy-award winning singer Kathy Mattea for "A View from the Mountaintop," an evening of spoken word and song at the Bijou Theatre on March 11. The two celebrated their shared Appalachian heritage and cast a spotlight on mountaintop removal mining. The controversial practice has destroyed more than 500 mountains across Appalachia and presents a looming threat to Tennessee's mountains on the Cumberland Plateau.
Kathy Mattea, a native of West Virginia, has won two Grammys and has twice been named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association. Her recordings intertwine Celtic, gospel, and bluegrass influences with the folk and acoustic music that have always served as her artistic anchor. Her most recent CD, the Grammy-nominated, Coal, celebrates the culture of Appalachia.
The evening was sponsored by LEAF (Lindquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship), a non-profit, non-denominational fellowship of Tennesseans whose faith leads them to take action for Tennessee's environment. LEAF seeks to protect Tennessee's highest ridgelines by working for the passage of the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act that is currently under consideration by the Tennessee Legislature. For more information on mountaintop removal and its impact in Tennessee: www.tnleaf.org.
Photo by Andy Snow
Kingsolver receives Dayton Literary Peace Prize Nov. 12-13, 2011
Dayton, OH – Author Barbara Kingsolver received the first-ever Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award.
The award, which was formerly known as the Lifetime Achievement Award, was renamed in honor of the late Richard C. Holbrooke, the celebrated U.S. diplomat who played an instrumental role in negotiating the historic 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia. It was presented to Kingsolver by journalist Kati Marton, Holbrooke’s widow, at a gala ceremony in Dayton. Holbrooke had been serving as special advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan under President Obama when he passed away in December 2010.
Kingsolver joined the ranks of past winners of the award, including Studs Terkel (2006), Elie Wiesel (2007), Taylor Branch (2008), Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDun (2009), and Geraldine Brooks (2010).
Emory & Henry College features Kingsolver for 2011 Literary Festival
Barbara Kingsolver was the featured author for this year’s Emory & Henry College Literary Festival Sept. 29-30. She gave a reading and public interview for the festival, while three noted scholars presented papers and reviews of her work.
Linda Wagner-Martin, professor of English at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, presented a paper entitled “Keeping an Eye on Paradise:’ The Exuberance of Prodigal Summer.” Meredith Sue Willis, adjunct assistant professor of Creative Writing, New York University, presented a paper entitled “Not Missing from The Lacuna: A Private Life in a Political World,” while Sandra Ballard, professor of English at Appalachian State University and editor of The Appalachian Journal, presented a paper entitled “‘Disclosing the Heart of the Form’: An Appreciation of Barbara Kingsolver’s Nonfiction.”
Steve Fisher, professor emeritus at Emory & Henry and a well-known scholar of Appalachian studies, conducted the interview with the author, which, along with all the proceedings of the festival, will be published in an upcoming issue of The Iron Mountain Review.
Compassion in difficult times focus of 2011 commencement address
Barbara Kingsolver presented the 2011 Commencement Address for Emory & Henry College May 7. The college is located in Emory, Va., very near where a deadly tornado struck in Glade Spring, Va., on April 28, and near where Kingsolver lives. She said to the new graduates, who had responded to the tragedy in large numbers the night of the tornado: “Now you have seen what a world of agitated molecules can do and how a community of compassionate individuals can respond.”
Kingsolver receives Duke Leaf Award
Barbara Kingsolver was the recipient of the 2011 Duke LEAF Award for Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine Arts, presented by the Nicholas School of the Environment on April 9.
The Lacuna published to rave reviews in France
The Lacuna has been published in France under the title “Un Autre Monde.” Beautifully translated by Martine Aubert, the novel was described in the premiere French literary review journal as “vertiginous.” Below is an extract of the review by Nils C. Ahl in Le Monde des Livres, followed by a link to the full text.
Une fable américaine
En restituant la part mystérieuse d'une vie, Barbara Kingsolver concilie avec brio intentions politiques et littéraires. A laisser courir les sept cents pages serrées de ce roman sous la pulpe de son doigt, on est pris de vertige. Au chapitre des mises en garde, certes, l'endurance est de mise. Ou un jour de congé. Car sa poétique est si dense qu'elle souffre quand on l'interrompt : un défaut, peut-être, mais en forme de qualité. Et la plupart des lecteurs ne s'étonneront pas d'en venir à bout : le voyage est d'un rare confort, et la langue plastique et poétique de Barbara Kingsolver rend l'ensemble d'une saisissante fluidité. A la réflexion, le vertige vient d'ailleurs.
The Lacuna also has been published in the United Kingdom, and is being translated in Croatia, Russia, Romania, Norway, Italy, Brazil, Isreal, Taiwan, China, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Denmark, Poland, Serbia, Greece, S. Korea, and Turkey.
In summer 2010 the author worked closely with Mexican translator Elisa Ramirez Castañeda on the Spanish translation of The Lacuna. In a Spanish-language publishing industry powerfully dominated by Spain, Kingsolver is pleased to have secured a New World translator for this Mexico-inspired novel.
Kingsolver receives Library of Virginia fiction award
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver was the winner of the fiction prize at the 13th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards October 16, hosted by award-winning Virginia author Adriana Trigiani. The evening celebrated a remarkable list of authors, including Lee Smith, David Baldacci and Jeanette Walls.
The awards are presented each year for the best books by a Virginia author in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A special award is also given each year for lifetime achievement in any literary field.
According to a Library of Virginia press release, judges felt Kingsolver’s novel “was the achievement of a literary artist at the peak of her skills.”
Kingsolver wins Orange Prize for Fiction
Barbara Kingsolver has won the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction for The Lacuna.
Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall, presented the author with the Prize at an awards ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall in central London June 9, hosted by Orange Prize for Fiction Co-Founder and Honorary Director Kate Mosse.
Celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this year, the Prize celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world. The winner receives a check for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a "Bessie," created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven. Both are anonymously endowed.
Daisy Goodwin, Chair of Judges, who announced the winning author at the ceremony, said: “We had very different tastes on the panel, but in the end we went for passion not compromise. We chose The Lacuna because it is a book of breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy.”
Bellwether Prize winner announced
The 2010 winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, the largest monetary prize for unpublished fiction in North America, has been announced: Naomi Benaron of Tucson has won the $25,000 award and publication with the Bellwether’s partner publisher, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, N.C. The announcement marked the award’s 10th anniversary.
Established by Barbara Kingsolver, the Bellwether Prize is awarded biennially to an unpublished novel manuscript by a writer who has previously published articles or short stories but not a major novel. The prize is designed to be a career-founding event for writers with outstanding literary skills, moral passion, and the courage to combine these strengths in unusually powerful fiction.
To learn more, see http://www.pen.org/page.php/prmID/2145.