Sherman Alexie takes the $15,000 PEN/Faulkner prize for fiction, beating Lorrie Moore and Barbara Kingsolver with War Dances, a short story collection described by judge Al Young as a ‘rollicking, bittersweet gem’
Native American poet and author Sherman Alexie has beaten writers including Lorrie Moore and Barbara Kingsolver to win the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction.
Alexie won the $15,000 award for War Dances, a collection of short stories about ordinary people on the brink of change, interspersed with poems. From the story of a famous author whose father is dying a “natural Indian death” from alcohol and diabetes, to the tale of a young boy writing for his local newspaper’s obituaries pages, judge Al Young — California’s poet laureate — called it a “rollicking, bittersweet gem of a book”.
“War Dances taps every vein and nerve, every tissue, every issue that quickens the current blood-pulse: parenthood, divorce, broken links, sex, gender and racial conflict, substance abuse, medical neglect, 9/11, Official Narrative vs What Really Happened, settler religion vs native spirituality; marketing, shopping, and war, war, war,” said Young. “All the heartbreaking ways we don’t live now — this is the caring, eye-opening beauty of [War Dances].”
Almost 350 novels and short story collections were considered for this year’s PEN/Faulkner award, America’s largest peer-juried prize. Established with money donated by William Faulkner from his Nobel prize winnings, former winners include EL Doctorow, John Updike, Philip Roth and Ann Patchett. The four finalists — Kingsolver, Moore, Lorraine M López and Colson Whitehead — all receive $5,000.
Alexie, author of four novels, three previous short story collections and many books of poetry, has previously won a National Book Award for young people’s literature and the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas lifetime achievement award.