The University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies has named author Margot Singer the 2017 Edward Lewis Wallant Award winner for her outstanding novel, Underground Fugue (Melville House, 2017). The presentation ceremony will be held on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, West Hartford, CT as part of the 2017-18 Mandell JCC Book Festival series. This year’s Wallant Award ceremony will also honor the runner-up for the award, Rachel Hall, for her debut story collection, Heirlooms.
As a Wallant Award winner, Singer joins a distinguished list of past award recipients, including Cynthia Ozick, Curt Leviant, Chaim Potok, Myla Goldberg, Dara Horn, Nicole Krauss, Julie Orringer, and David Bezmozgis as well as last year’s award winner, Ayelet Tsabari. Established over 50 years ago, in 1963, by Dr. and Mrs. Irving Waltman of West Hartford to honor the memory of the late Edward Lewis Wallant, author of The Pawnbroker and other works of fiction, the Wallant Award is today one of the oldest and most prestigious Jewish literary awards in the United States. It is presented to a Jewish writer, preferably unrecognized, whose published work of fiction is deemed to have significance for the American Jew.
In addition to Underground Fugue, Margot Singer is also the author of a collection of short stories, The Pale of Settlement (University of Georgia Press, 2007), winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction; and co-editor, with Nicole Walker, of Bending Genre (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), a collection of essays on creative nonfiction. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, Conjunctions, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Agni, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and many others. Winner of the 2013 James Jones First Novel Fellowship, she has also received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction, the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, the Carter Prize for the essay, and an honorable mention from the judges of the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her short story, Deir Yassin, also appears in the Wallant Award anthology, The New Diaspora: The Changing Landscape of American Jewish Fiction (Wayne State University Press, 2015).
Underground Fugue begins in April 2005 as Esther leaves New York for London, partly to escape her buckling marriage, and partly to care for her dying mother; Lonia, Esther’s mother, is haunted by memories of fleeing Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II; Javad, their next-door neighbor and an Iranian neuroscientist, struggles to connect with his college-aged son; and Amir, Javad’s son, is seeking both identity and escape in his illicit exploration of the city’s forbidden spaces.
As Esther settles into life in London, a friendship develops among them. But when terrorists attack the London transit system in July 2005, someone goes missing, and the chaos that follows both fractures the possibilities for the future, and reveals the deep fault lines of the past.
With nuanced clarity and breathtaking grandeur, Margot Singer’s Underground Fugue is an elegant, suspenseful, and deeply powerful debut.
Heirlooms begins in the French seaside city of Saint-Malo, in 1940, and ends in the American Midwest in 1989. In this collection of linked stories, the war reverberates through four generations of a Jewish family. Inspired by the author’s family stories as well as extensive research, Heirlooms explores assumptions about love, duty, memory and truth.
Rachel Hall’s stories and essays have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gettysburg Review, Lilith, New Letters, and Water~Stone. In addition, she has received awards and honors from publications such as Lilith and Glimmer Train, and New Letters and from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, as well as Ragdale and the Ox-Bow School of the Arts where portions of Heirlooms were written.
She holds an MFA from Indiana University where she was the Hemingway Fellow in Fiction. Currently, Hall is Professor of English at the State University of New York-Geneseo. She teaches creative writing and literature and holds two Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence—one for teaching and one for her creative work.
The 2017 Edward Lewis Wallant Award presentation ceremony will be held on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, West Hartford, CT. This year’s Wallant Award ceremony will honor Margot Singer as winner of the award, as well as Rachel Hall, the runner-up for the award.