Professor Blanche Boyd named a finalist for the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award
Blanche Boyd is one of five finalists for the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction. Boyd, the Roman and Tatiana Weller Professor of English and Writer-in-Residence at Connecticut College, was named for her novel Tomb of the Unknown Racist (Counterpoint, 2018).
“I am honored and surprised and humbled by the news that I'm a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award,” Boyd said.“It's a relief to have writers I respect so much choose Tomb.”
Boyd is the author of five novels and a collection of autobiographical journalism. Tomb of the Unknown Racist completes The Blacklock Trilogy. The novel is narrated by the same character as The Revolution of Little Girls (1991) and Terminal Velocity (1997), although the three novels function independently.
Boyd’s essays and reporting have appeared in venues such as the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Ms, Vanity Fair and Village Voice. Her works traverse the racial and political contradictions of the second half of the 20th century, intertwining personal and psychological adventures with feminist protests, lesbianism, racial conflicts, and a confrontation with the violent white supremacist subculture.
Joining Boyd as finalists are Richard Powers for The Overstory (W.W. Norton), Ivelisse Rodriguez for Love War Stories (Feminist Press New York), Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi for Call Me Zebra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Willy Vlautin for Don’t Skip Out on Me (Harper Perennial).
“This year’s finalists are proof that we are living in an age in which tremendous, significant stories are being told by a multiplicity of unique voices,” said PEN/Faulkner Executive Director Gwydion Suilebhan. “We are honored to be able to call attention toward such profound, thrilling artistry.”
This year’s judges—Percival Everett, Ernesto Quiñonez and Joy Williams—considered more than 400 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the U.S. during the 2018 calendar year. Submissions came from more than 180 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. There is no fee for a publisher to submit.
“In this year’s fiction we experienced more honesty and generosity than in any head of state,” said this year’s judges in a prepared statement. “In a time when our leaders are telling us that our lives don't matter, that language exists only to convey misinformation, we found all entrants speaking loudly, eloquently and timelessly, reaffirming that our lives do. Our finalists were chosen for their genuine and emotional possession of an American narrative that includes us all, beyond walls or any lines.”
The winner, who will receive $15,000, will be announced on April 29. The remaining four finalists will each receive an honorarium of $5,000. In a ceremony that celebrates the winner as “first among equals,” all five authors will be honored during the 39th Annual PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony on May 4 at 7 p.m. This year’s ceremony will be held at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.
Boyd told The Day that while she'd love to win, she is grateful for the attention that comes with the nomination.
"My biggest hope would be that the book gets out a bit more and there's some more attention paid to the trilogy—and maybe there will be more dialogue about what's going on in our country," she said.