Spring 2016 Graduate Literary Prize Awards: Fiction
Lydia Netzer, judge Lydia Netzer is the author of Shine Shine Shine, a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize, and more recently How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky. She was born in Michigan and now lives in Virginia. The following comments are hers.
Hobart L. and Mary Kay Peer Fiction Prize, $1000: Katherine Scott Nelson, "Internal Combustion"
This is a fantastic story. There is a surety and confidence to the prose here that makes the fractured form come together. In lesser hands all these pieces may not have hung fast, but as it is the layering of the grandfather's past, the narrator's different chunks of past, and all these arresting elements creates a really magical whole. I appreciate what isn't said here, the lines which aren't clearly drawn. The author's trust in the reader is a gift, and I enjoyed piecing the story together for myself. A light touch -- keep that. The questions you never directly ask, but answer with images and scene are the strongest. When you write like that, and then drop lines like this: "Everyone in his unit died of cancer, if they didn’t shoot themselves first." it allows those lines to boom. I also loved the connecting of the board game explosion with the Nagasaki explosion with the firesetting the narrator does for work.
Josephine M. Bresee Memorial Award, $500: Chekwube Danladi, "1996"
A very impressive story. I was reading along, enjoying the work and the skill and the scene, and then when I figured out the mother was actually dead, it was like the story swirled open into vividness -- actually jaw-dropping. I loved that moment, and from there the author had me completely captivated, wondering what was coming. This writer shows a wonderful ability to create a scene, to paint a world -- the apartment with its stench, the standing in line and counting bushes, even the flashbacks are very real.I felt a strong sense of the place I was reading about, although the details were graceful and not overwhelming. An excellent example of creating an emotion and a setting at the same time, with a lot of the descriptions doing double duty. I would cheerfully have read an entire novel about this woman and her struggles.