Two African-American scholars are among five finalists for the 2016 PEN/Faulkner Award in Fiction, one of the most coveted honors for American writers.
The winner will be announced April 5 and feted at the 36th Annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Ceremony & Dinner on May 14, at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
Established in 1980, the PEN/Faulkner Award honors the best work of fiction published by an American in a single calendar year and is the largest peer-reviewed prize in the U.S. literary world, according to the website.
Among the authors to receive recognition as a finalist this year is James Hannaham, an associate professor of humanities and media studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Yale graduate was nominated for his acclaimed novel, “Delicious Foods,” in which he explores what slavery would look like in modern-day America through the story of a drug-addicted widow who is held
captive and forced to work on a produce farm, and the efforts of her son to rescue her.
Hannaham, who has also written articles for The Village Voice, Spin, Vibe, Us, Out, Interview, and Salon.com, where he was a staff writer, is also the author of “God Says No,” the story of a young Black Christian struggling with his homosexual desires.
The other African-American to make the shortlist is Julie Iromuanya, a native of the American Midwest and the daughter of Nigerian immigrants. The author was nominated for her debut novel, “Mr. and Mrs. Doctor,” about Job and Ifi, a Nigerian couple in an arranged marriage who lie about his being a doctor to their families back in Africa.
Iromuanya is an assistant professor of English and Africana literature at the University of Arizona, and teaches in the university’s creative writing master’s program. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida and her master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Former African American winners of the PEN/Faulkner award include David Bradley (1982), “The Chaneysville Incident” and John Edgar Wideman, who won twice for “Sent for You Yesterday” (1984), and Philadelphia Fire (1991). Other nominated authors included Jamaica Kincaid and A.J. Verdelle.