Sunday, December 11, 2016

UPK author recognized by PEN America Literary Awards

UPK author Rion Amilcar Scott’s first short story collection, "Insurrections: Stories," has been named to the longlist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, a PEN America Literary Award. The prize honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work — a novel or collection of short stories — represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise. The winner receives a cash award of $25,000, a stipend intended to permit a significant degree of leisure in which to pursue a second work of literary fiction.

"Insurrections" joins nine other books on the longlist — "We Show What We Have Learned" by Clare Beams, "The Mothers" by Brit Bennett, "The Wangs vs. the World" by Jade Chang, "When Watched: Stories" by Leopoldine Core, "Hide" by Matthew Griffin, "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi, "Tuesday Nights in 1980" by Molly Prentiss, "Hurt People" by Cote Smith and "Wreck and Order" by Hannah Tennart-Moore. The judges for this year’s award are Jami Attenberg, Tawni Nandini Islam, Randall Kenan, Hanna Pyalvainen and Akhil Sharma.

Award finalists will be announced by PEN America on Jan. 18, 2017. Winners will be announced at the 2017 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on March 27, 2017, at The New School’s Tishman Auditorium.

"Insurrections" centers on the fictional town of Cross River, Maryland, an African-American community that was founded in 1807 by slaves after the only successful revolt in the United States. Grappling with the experiences of adolescence, brotherhood, mistaken identity, child raising, abuse and particularly, hope, each story showcases Scott’s unique ability to flesh out intricately imagined characters and to narrate from a variety of perspectives, often revolving around children who display more wisdom, compassion and tact than their adult counterparts.

Early reviews of "Insurrections" have lauded Scott’s original and powerful voice. It was included on LitHub’s list of “18 Books You Should Read this August,” and The Millions named it one of the most anticipated books for the second half of 2016. In his review for The Millions, Michael Deagler called Scott’s stories “vast and riotous.” On The Root website, Hope Wabuke praises Scott’s ability to “get into the heads of his characters and bring them to life as real, complicated souls. “In Scott’s hands,” she writes, “the short story collection becomes an epic album, each story placed in musical accordance with the next to craft a complete, melodic whole.”

In a conversation with Molly McArdle for Brooklyn magazine, Scott compares Cross River to Winesburg from Sherwood Anderson’s "Winesburg, Ohio," or the Springfield of "The Simpsons" — the kind of place “where things get out of hand. It’s also a place where people have a keen awareness of history: they’re all children of this insurrection. They’re trying to live up to that. It’s a place of people who awkwardly stumble towards some sense of freedom.” McArdle, “compared [the book] to hitting 10 grand slams in a row. It’s hyperbolic, sure,” she said, “but not entirely incorrect. ['Insurrections'] is a crazy streak of hits.”

Scott’s collection was also chosen as July’s selection by The Rumpus book club. Readers can also browse his “Booknotes” playlist at Largehearted Boy or read an excerpt in Electric Literature’s “Recommended Reading” column with an introduction by author Daniel José Older.

Scott’s book is the debut title in UPK's New Poetry and Prose series, edited by Lisa Williams and sponsored by Centre College. Williams selected Scott’s collection from more than 120 submissions.

Rion Amilcar Scott teaches English at Bowie State University. He earned an MFA at George Mason University, where he won both the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award and a Completion Fellowship. His work has appeared in publications such as the Kenyon Review, Crab Orchard Review, PANK, The Rumpus, Fiction International, the Washington City Paper, The Toast and Confrontation.

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