American Academy of Arts and Letters honors 19 writers, including Haigh, Spiotta, Sinclair


Jennifer Haigh                                  Safiya Sinclair               Dana Spiotta 


The American Academy of Arts and Letters announced today the names of 19 writers who will receive the 2017 awards in literature, which will be presented in New York City at the Academy’s annual Ceremonial in May.  The literature prizes, totaling $265,000, honor both established and emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry.  The Academy’s 250 members propose candidates, and a rotating committee of writers selects winners.  This year’s award committee members were John Guare (chairman), Thomas McGuane, Anne Tyler, Rosanna Warren, and Joy Williams.

Recipients include novelists Jennifer Haigh (Heat and Light, Baker Towers, News from Heaven) and Dana Spiotta (Innocents and Others, Stone Arabia) and poets Kathleen Graber (The Eternal City, Correspondence) and Safiya Sinclair (Cannibal).

Haigh and Graber received Arts and Letters Awards in Literature, which honor “exceptional accomplishment in any genre” and come with a $10,000 prize.

Spiotta received the John Updike Award ($20,000), which is “given biennially to a writer in mid-career whose work has demonstrated consistent excellence.” Spiotta’s Innocents and Others is a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in Fiction, which will be announced on April 21.

Sinclair was chosen for the Addison M. Metcalf Award ($10,000), which is “given to a young writer of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or poetry.” The Jamaican-born poet, currently a PhD candidate in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California, is a 2016 Whiting Award winner, and her debut collection, Cannibal, won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.

Work by the winners will be featured in the 2017 Exhibition of Work by Newly Elected Members and Recipients of Honors and Awards, which will be on view in the Academy’s galleries from May 18 to June 11.

NEWS FROM HEAVEN wins Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction

news from heaven.jpg.   Jennifer Haigh

Jennifer Haigh has won the 2014 Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction for her 2013 short story collection, News from Heaven (Harper). The award was announced at the Massachusetts Library Association’s annual conference earlier this week.

The ten stories in News from Heaven follow up on the characters readers first met in Haigh’s acclaimed novel, Baker Towers, about the residents of the Pennsylvania mining town of Bakerton.

Having grown up in such a town, Haigh knows these people and the lives they lead. As a result, she writes about their difficult economic and emotional lives with compassion and lyricism. With the mining business in dramatic decline, the Bakerton locals are struggling to find their way forward through a range of personal and social challenges.

News from Heaven examines a town and a culture, and reveals the universal experiences of working people coping with a world in which change forces them to change more than just their jobs. Haigh’s collection is not a flashy post-postmodern work that flirts with science fiction, fantasy, and nihilism; it’s built on character-based scenarios that hit home with Haigh’s clear-eyed insights and flawless prose.

News from Heaven also won the PEN/New England fiction award on March 16. Clearly, those who know Jennifer Haigh’s writing best know the quality of her work. Don’t let her fly under your reading radar any longer. You can’t go wrong with Baker Towers, Faith, or News from Heaven.