University of Rochester

Amy Waldman Wins Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction

September 28, 2012

Susan B. Anthony Institute Award Promotes Promising New Authors

Brooklyn-based author Amy Waldman has been named the recipient of the 2012 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction, presented by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Rochester. The annual award will be given for Waldman's post 9/11 novel, The Submission, which has received national acclaim from The New York Times Book Review, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, and The Washington Post.

Waldman will receive the award and $7,500 prize on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 5 p.m. in the Interfaith Chapel on the University's River campus. The event is free and open to the public. As part of the award ceremony, Waldman will give a reading from the novel and there will be a book signing and reception after the event.

The Submission is set in Manhattan as a jury gathers to select plans for a memorial for the victims of the September 11th terrorist attack, only to learn that the anonymous architect who created the winning design is an American Muslim. Written in 2007, three years before the controversial Park51 proposal to locate an Islamic Centre near the World Trade Center site, Waldman says the idea for the novel came from a conversation with a friend. "We were talking about the 9/11 memorial competition and some of the intense reactions to architect Maya Lin's winning designs for the Vietnam Veteran's memorial, and I thought what would be the equivalent for the 9/11 competition?" said Waldman. "Once I had the idea of a Muslim American architect, I instantly wanted to know what would happen."

Waldman's first novel was unanimously selected for the University's Kafka Prize by a panel of three reviewers from nearly 100 nominations. "Much of the work of students and faculty connected to the Susan B. Anthony Institute focuses on difficult social issues and the conflicts that arise between cultures, making The Submission a great fit for this year's winner," said Honey Meconi, Susan B. Anthony Professor of Gender and Women's Studies and director of the Susan B. Anthony Institute.

Before writing The Submission, Waldman was a reporter for The New York Times for eight years. She spent three years as co-chief of the South Asia bureau after covering Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the aftermath of 9/11. She was also a national correspondent for The Atlantic. She graduated from Yale University and has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and at the American Academy in Berlin. Her fiction has appeared in the Boston Review and the Atlantic, and was anthologized in the Best American Non-Required Reading 2010.

The Submission was a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN First Fiction Award; one of National Public Radio's Ten Best Novels; Esquire's Book of the Year; Entertainment Weekly's #1 Novel for the Year; a Washington Post Notable Fiction Book; and one of Amazon's Top 100 Books and top ten debut fiction.

The University's Janet Heidinger Kafka prize recognizes an American woman writer whose book-length work has been published in the previous year. Previous winners include Anne Tyler, Ann Patchett, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Toni Morrison, all of whom won the award before becoming famous for their prose. The award honors Janet Heidinger Kafka, a young editor who was killed in an automobile accident as her career was beginning. Her friends and family created the endowment that supports the award in memory of Kafka's high literary standards and personal ideals.

This year's selection committee was led by Kathy McGowan, education and women's studies librarian at Rush Rhees Library, with Terry Platt, professor of biochemistry and biology at Rochester, and Katherine Manheimer, associate professor of English at Rochester.




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