Alexander Chee received the 2017 Paul Engle Prize, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization, during the Iowa City Book Festival last month. The prize, established in 2011, honors an individual "who, like Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts."
Chee, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, is a Korean-American writer, poet, reviewer and essayist who writes on subjects such as race, gender and LGBTQ+ issues. He is also a veteran of ACT UP, the AIDS advocacy organization.
His debut novel, Edinburgh, about sexual abuse, won the Whiting Award, the James Michener/Copernicus Society Fellowship Prize, the Iowa Writers' Workshop's Michener Copernicus Prize in Fiction and the Lambda Literary Foundation Editor's Choice Award.
His second novel, Queen of the Night, a historical novel about an opera singer, was published in 2016. His essay "Girl," which deals with gender identity, appeared in the 2016 edition of Best American Essays, and his first collection of essays, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2018.
Bill Beverly will receive the 2017 Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award for his first novel, Dodgers: A Novel (Crown). Sponsored by the Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford, Conn., the $25,000 award honors "an 'American voice' such as Twain established in his masterpiece Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." The award will be presented at the Museum on November 30, Twain's birthday.
Finalists included Stuart Nadler for The Inseparables and Don DeLillo for Zero K; each of those authors will receive $1,000.
The organizers described Dodgers as "the story of a young L.A. gang member named East, who is sent by his uncle along with some other teenage boys--including East's hothead younger brother--to kill a key witness hiding out in Wisconsin. The journey takes East out of a city he's never left and into an America that is entirely alien to him, ultimately forcing him to grapple with his place in the world and decide what kind of man he wants to become."