The Bellwether Prize has just been announced online—Naomi Benaron won for her novel Running the Rift.
The Prize, which comes with a $25,000 award and guaranteed publication by a major publisher, was founded and fully funded by Barbara Kingsolver. The mission of the Prize—given to a first-time novelist—is to "advocate serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." Benaron's novel will be published by Algonquin.
In a press release, Kingsolver said that Running the Rift:
engages the reader with complex political questions about ethnic animosity in Rwanda and so many other issues relevant to North American readers. . . For one, it conveys the impossibility of remaining neutral within a climate of broad moral compromise—even for purportedly apolitical institutions like the Olympics.
Benaron has previously published a short story collection, Love Letters From a Fat Man, with BkMk Press at the University of Missouri, Kansas City—interestingly, the same publisher of PEN/Faulkner finalist Lorraine M. López's collection Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories.
Now, Benaron teaches at Pima Community College in Tuscon (in addition to working with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project and being a triathlete and a certified orthopedic massage therapist!).
In the past, BookPage has covered Bellwether winners such as The Book of Dead Birds (Gayle Brandeis), Mudbound (Hillary Jordan) and The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Heidi Durrow). I will eagerly anticipate more information about Running the Rift.
Do you have a favorite novel that addresses social justice issues?