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September 5, 2008
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Two very different female writers are this year's recipients of the third William Saroyan International Prize for Writing (also known as the Saroyan Prize). Stanford University Libraries, in partnership with the William Saroyan Foundation, announced the winners during a ceremony today at Stanford.
This year's award honors an acclaimed 30-something New Yorker and an octogenarian Californian. Nicole Krauss, a Stanford alumna, has been awarded the fiction prize for The History of Love. Kiyo Sato has won the nonfiction prize for Dandelion Through the Crack, her first book. Each will receive $12,500.
The other fiction finalists were Pamela Erens for The Understory and Richard Lange for Dead Boys. The other non-fiction finalists were John Moir for Return of the Condor and Adam David Miller for Ticket to Exile: A Memoir.
The 2008 Saroyan Prize received more than 230 qualified entrants, a record number.
The biennial Saroyan Writing Prize was established to encourage new and emerging writers, and to honor the literary legacy of the Pulitzer and Academy Award-winning writer William Saroyan (1908-81). This year, the award coincides with centennial celebrations on the anniversary of the writer's birth.
Krauss's The History of Love won France's Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger and was Amazon's No. 1 Book of the Year; it was short-listed for the Orange, Médicis and Femina prizes. Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire and Best American Short Stories. In 2007, she was selected as one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists.
Krauss, '96, MA '96, is married to Jonathan Safran Foer, whose novel Everything is Illuminated received the first Saroyan Prize for fiction in 2003.
Sacramento-born Sato was honored for her memoir of her family's history through the Depression, wartime emergency, internment in Poston Camp II in the Arizona desert, and life afterward as they struggled against oppressive prejudice and worked to recover from near-total loss. Her father's folk tales and haiku are woven into the work, which The Atlantic Monthly's James Fallows called "moving and graceful … a powerful, thought-provoking historical document."
Biographies of all Saroyan Prize finalists are available at: http://library.stanford.edu/saroyan.
The prize categories are literary fiction, including novels, short story collections and drama, and literary nonfiction, particularly works that follow in the Saroyan tradition of memoirs, portraits and excursions into neighborhood and community.
This year's fiction judges were Geoffrey Burn, director of Stanford University Press; author Bo Caldwell (The Distant Land of My Father); and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, the Albert Guérard Professor in Literature at Stanford.
The nonfiction judges were Keith Devlin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford; clinical psychologist Ginger Rhodes; author Richard Rhodes (The Making of the Atomic Bomb); and Hank Saroyan, a writer, performer and nephew of William Saroyan. More information on the judges can be found at http://library.stanford.edu/saroyan/judges.html.
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