Robert Lunday Wins River Teeth's 2021 Literary Nonfiction Book Prize

By Jill Christman

February 22, 2022

Robert Lunday Wins River Teeth's 2021 Literary Nonfiction Book Prize

We are delighted to announce that Robert Lunday has won the 2021 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize. Fayettenam: Meditations on Missingness will be published by the University of New Mexico Press in spring 2023. All entries were screened by the editors and our guest judge, Rigoberto González, chose a winner from among the finalists. Everyone at River Teeth is grateful to the many writers who submitted their books to this year’s competition and to Rigoberto González for sharing his time and expertise to choose a winner.

González had this to say about Lunday’s winning manuscript:

“One becomes a stalker of the missing,” writes Robert Lunday in Fayettenam: Meditations on Missingness, a captivating study on the nature of loss. Seamlessly blending reflection with research, Fayettenam builds a compelling portrait of the cultural, political and social landscapes of Western manhood in order to locate the door through which the author’s stepfather, a Vietnam veteran, vanished. On this journey through memory and the lessons of secondary sources, Lunday’s search radiates into other arenas—fictional and historical—such as the travesties of the disappeared, the unknowns of abductions, the incomplete stories of the lost, delving deeper into the difficult possibility that even after every stone has been turned, the outcome may result inconclusive. With its arresting catalogue of anecdotes and passages illustrating missingness, Fayettenam captures what it’s like to become obsessed with a mystery, as well as what it feels to get trapped in its labyrinth. But most compellingly, it teaches us that if the grief-stricken can’t find out the truth, they can attain solace in the still-present love for those who are gone."

Robert Lunday is a professor of English at Houston Community College Northwest. He is the author of two books, Gnome and Mad Flights and coauthor of the textbook Reading Writing: An Instructor’s Manual. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in dozens of venues, including Verse Daily, New Madrid, NANO Fiction, AGNI, Southern Poetry Review, and Drunken Boat. Lunday has served as fiction editor of Etruscan Press since 2010. He has also served as a Wallace Stegner Fellow. In 2005 he founded the Writing Center at Houston Community College Southeast, which includes tutor-training resources and TESOL-related resources. Lunday holds a BA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA and PhD from the University of Houston.

Lunday will receive a $1,000 cash prize and Fayettenam will be published by the University of New Mexico Press in Spring 2023. His book will be the twentieth selection in the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize series. Past series winners have gone on to win a PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for Art of the Essay, a Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award for Creative Nonfiction, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, a Library Journal prize, a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Lesbian Memoir, among many other honors and citations.

Warm congratulations also to Renata Golden, our 2021 River Teeth Nonfiction Book Prize runner up, and all the finalists:

Runner Up
Mountain Time: A Field Guide to Astonishment by Renata Golden

Four Finalists
Mister Eggleston's Tricycle: Reflections on Memoir, Memory, Place, Time, and Truth by Greg Bottoms
Love Is Here by Garret Keizer
Crosshatch: Recovering a Forgotten Feminist's Voice and Finding My Own by Christina Larocco
I Just Want You to Know I Was There and Other Histories
by Susan Neville

Six Semi-Finalists
In the Lake, Before Dark by Joshua Bernstein
Animal Behavior by Michelle Herman
Chasing Squirrels, Ghosts, and Girls: A Memoir in Essays by Lori Horvitz
Except for the Cancer I’m Fine: Essays About Living Even So by Lori Jakiela
Earthquakes and Angels by Sydney Lea
Between Two Cultures, Traveling Woman by Kathleen Spivack

A list of past winners can be found on our website and you can find their books on the University of New Mexico Press site and wherever you buy books. Look for our most recent titles, including the debut essay collection of our 2020 winner, Dr. Walter Robinson, What Cannot Be Undone: True Stories of a Life in Medicine, and our 2019 winner, The Rock Cycle by Kevin Honold.

The 2022 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize will be open for submissions August 1 – October 31, 2022. We look forward to reading your manuscript!

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