River Teeth 2014 Book Contest Winner Receives 2017 PEN Literary Award

March 30, 2017

River Teeth 2014 Book Contest Winner Receives 2017 PEN Literary Award

The 2014 winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Award reaped a major PEN literary award at ceremonies in New York City on Monday, March 27. Angela Morales, whose manuscript The Girls in My Town was selected by bestselling author Cheryl Strayed as a River Teeth winner from five finalists chosen by co-editors Joe Mackall and Dan Lehman, won the 2017 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for Art of the Essay. Morales’s PEN award carries a $10,000 prize.

In citing the River Teeth book series winner, PEN judges stated: “The Girls in My Town is the work of a masterful writer who is adept at the art of implication. The elegantly structured essays in The Girls in My Town illuminate the politics of everyday life with quiet wit and real humanity. Angela Morales writes with nuance, humility, and bold feminism about life and death, love and anger, and striving to find a place to belong.”

For fourteen years now, River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative has built its literary nonfiction prize into one of the more coveted national writing awards and annually receives some 200 book-length manuscripts vying for the prize. The River Teeth winner receives a $1,000 cash prize and book publication by the University of New Mexico Press, which has a multiyear agreement with River Teeth to release the book in its River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize series.

When she chose Angela Morales’ book for River Teeth in 2014, Cheryl Strayed, the bestselling author of Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, called The Girls in My Town “beautifully written” and “sharply perceptive.” University of New Mexico Press described the book as “moving, darkly comical, and intensely personal.” Beginning with the life of her grandmother as a migrant worker, the essays in Morales’s book contemplate “moments of loss and longing, truth and beauty, and motherhood and daughterhood, offering both a coming-of-age story and an exploration of how a writer discovers her voice,” UNM Press said. The book is available at the UNM Press and Amazon websites.

In winning the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award, Morales bested a semifinalist list of such well-known writers as Joyce Carol Oates and Peter Singer as well as four other finalists who included Siri Hustvedt and Teju Cole. Accepting the award in New York, Morales thanked the River Teeth editors for their sponsorship of the annual book prize.
Since choosing The Girls in My Town in 2014 (subsequently released by UNM Press in 2016), Lehman and Mackall have selected two more annual River Teeth winners along with final judge Andre Dubus III. River Teeth Managing Editor Cassy Brown coordinates the selection process. The 2015 winner, Rosemary McGuire’s Rough Crossing: An Alaskan Fisherwoman’s Memoir, will be released this spring by University of New Mexico Press. The 2016 River Teeth winner is Sarah Viren, whose collection of linked essays is entitled Mine and will be published in 2018.

PEN America was first formed in 1921 and has been granting literary awards to U.S. authors for more than fifty years. Each year, with the help of its partners and supporters, PEN confers nearly $315,000 to writers of fiction, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, translation, drama, and poetry.

You can watch the ceremony at https://pen.org/event/2017-pen-literary-awards-ceremony/.

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