The University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies has named author Margot Singer as the 2017 Edward Lewis Wallant Award winner for her outstanding novel, Underground Fugue (Melville House, 2017). The Greenberg Center also named author Rachel Hall as a runner-up for her debut story collection, Heirlooms. Both authors will be honored at an awards ceremony Wednesday, May 2, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, West Hartford, Conn., as part of the 2017-18 Mandell JCC Book Festival series.
Established by Dr. and Mrs. Irving Waltman of West Hartford in 1963, the award honors the memory of the late Edward Lewis Wallant, author of The Pawnbroker and other works of fiction. The Wallant Award is one of the oldest and most prestigious Jewish literary awards in the United States. It is presented to a Jewish writer, preferably unrecognized, whose published work of fiction is deemed to have significance for the American Jew.
In addition to Underground Fugue, Singer is also the author of a collection of short stories, The Pale of Settlement (University of Georgia Press, 2007), winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction; and co-editor, with Nicole Walker, of Bending Genre (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), a collection of essays on creative nonfiction. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, Conjunctions, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Agni, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and many others.
Winner of the 2013 James Jones First Novel Fellowship, Singer also received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction, the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, the Carter Prize for the essay, and an honorable mention from the judges of the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her short story, Deir Yassin, also appears in the Wallant Award anthology, The New Diaspora: The Changing Landscape of American Jewish Fiction (Wayne State University Press, 2015).
“We (the Wallant Award judges) have followed Margot’s work since the publication of her collection of short stories, The Pale of the Settlement, and we were encouraged to see her take the leap to becoming the novelist who brought such intriguing characters to life,” said award judge Avinoam J. Patt, a professor of modern Jewish history and associate director of the Greenberg Center. “We are delighted to bring recognition to Margot, who is a highly talented writer and hope the award brings more awareness of her excellent work to broader audiences.”
Underground Fugue begins in April 2005 as Esther leaves New York for London to escape her buckling marriage and to care for her dying mother Lonia, who is haunted by memories of fleeing Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II. Javad, their next-door neighbor and an Iranian neuroscientist, struggles to connect with his college-aged son Amir, who is seeking both identity and escape in his illicit exploration of the city’s forbidden spaces. As Esther settles into life in London, a friendship develops among them. But when terrorists attack the London transit system in July 2005, someone goes missing, and the chaos that follows both fractures the possibilities for the future, and reveals the deep fault lines of the past.
Runner-up Rachel Hall’s stories and essays have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gettysburg Review, Lilith, New Letters, and Water~Stone. In addition, she has received awards and honors from publications such as Lilith, Glimmer Train, and New Letters, and from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, as well as Ragdale and the Ox-Bow School of the Arts where portions of Heirlooms were written.
Heirlooms begins in the French seaside city of Saint-Malo, in 1940, and ends in the American Midwest in 1989. In this collection of linked stories, the war reverberates through four generations of a Jewish family. Inspired by the author’s family stories, as well as extensive research, Heirlooms explores assumptions about love, duty, memory, and truth.
For more information about the award ceremony, contact Susan Gottlieb at the Greenberg Center, at 860.768.4964 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Edward Lewis Wallant Award visit, hartford.edu/wallant.