Bowie State University professor Rion A. Scott is the 2017 winner of a prestigious literary award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction.
Scott, who teaches English at the Maryland HBCU, won the award for his collection of short stories, “Insurrections.” The author’s first offering is set in the fictional town of Cross River, Md., a majority-Black settlement founded in 1807 after the only successful slave revolt in the United States. The different stories explore the lives of various members of that community, including a suicidal father, a man determined to save his brother from drug addiction and a young girl who learns about life during a chess match with her father.
“Raw, edgy, and unrelenting yet infused with forgiveness, redemption, and humor, the stories in this collection explore characters suffering the quiet tragedies of everyday life and fighting for survival,” Scott’s publisher, University Press of Kentucky, said of the collection.
Prize judges said the work “introduces a necessary voice in American literature.
“His collection has a fictional setting, but the Black residents of Cross River— and their struggles — feel unrelentingly real,” they added in their citation. “Scott’s prose — thickly textured with colloquialisms and dialect — delivers truth with straight-faced aplomb. These are hard, humane stories, free of grandstanding yet full of grace, that loom in the mind long after reading. We were better off for having read Insurrections.”
The PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, which comes with a $25,000 cash prize, recognizes burgeoning talent in fiction writing; writers’ whose first work shows promise of continuing literary greatness, according to the award website.