James Hannaham’s “Delicious Foods” is among the five finalists for this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award. His novel, which was named a 2015 Notable Book by The Washington Post, is a dazzling, disturbing story about a young man trying to free his mother from virtual slavery on a modern-day produce farm.
The PEN/Faulkner Award, which bills itself as “America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction,” is administered by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation in Washington. The winner, who will be announced April 5, will receive $15,000. The other four finalists will receive $5,000 apiece. The finalists for this year’s prize include two debut novels and two collections of short stories:
● Julie Iromuanya’s debut novel, “ Mr. and Mrs. Doctor ,” is about a Nigerian immigrant who deceives his family back home into believing that he has become a doctor. Iromuanya, who is herself the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, teaches English and Africana literature at the University of Arizona.
● Viet Thanh Nguyen’s debut novel, “The Sympathizer,” is about a North Vietnamese spy who flees to California after the fall of Saigon and continues working for the communists. “The Sympathizer” was also named a 2015 Notable Book by The Post. Nguyen teaches English and American studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
● Elizabeth Tallent’s new collection, “Mendocino Fire,” contains 10 stories, which the judges praised for their depiction of “turbulent change and ecological peril. Each character leaves us gasping.” Tallent, who was born in Washington, is a longtime teacher of creative writing at Stanford University.
● Luis Alberto Urrea’s “The Water Museum,” a collection of stories, was also named a 2015 Notable Book by The Post. Post reviewer Michael Lindgren wrote, “A subtle and moving exploration of the boundaries and contradictions of ethnic identity shimmers through these stories like a melody.” He went on to call the collection “an extended exercise in gutbucket romanticism played out in scorched-earth country where the land is cracked and hard.” Urrea teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
At the awards ceremony at the Folger Theatre in Washington on May 14, all the finalists will read from their work. Tickets to the ceremony, which includes a dinner with the authors, are $100. Go to penfaulkner.org or call 202-544-7077 for more details.
The judges this year are Abby Frucht, Molly McCloskey and Sergio Troncoso. They considered almost 500 works of fiction by Americans published in the United States during 2015.