Novelist Isla Morley Awarded Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Women’s Fiction

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As long as male writers receive greater media coverage than their female counterparts, there is still a need for literary awards recognizing woman writers.

Isla Morley, winner of Kafka Prize for Fiction

"A beautifully written story of overwhelming grief and how it can both distort and clarify."

While online communities seem to currently focus on the hoopla over whether male authors receive a disproportionate amount of coverage in book reviews from media outlets, one literary award has been recognizing outstanding women in literary fiction since 1975: The Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize.

Awarded by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies and the Department of English at the University of Rochester, this year’s winner is an American with international roots: South African-born Isla Morley for her powerful debut novel, Come Sunday, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Come Sunday is a spellbinding drama about a woman breaking free of seemingly insurmountable grief when her 3-year-old daughter is killed in a car accident, and what it takes to revive hope when all seems lost. The novel is described as “a beautifully written story of overwhelming grief and how it can both distort and clarify” by Kathleen McGowan, Janet Heidinger Kafka Award Committee Chair and Librarian at the University’s Rush Rhees Library.

Writing about the theme of a woman’s personal empowerment, Morley drew upon her experience of working with non profits that aid women and children. “At some point, we all suffer at the hand of someone else. Part of what I wanted to examine in writing this story was whether healing comes when blame can be assigned. Or does transformation and redemption come only through the course of forgiveness? The question arose in part from my work with women trying to make better lives for themselves, and also from having grown up in a ravaged country that ultimately chose reconciliation over vengeance,” Morley stated.

The prize will be awarded to Morley in a ceremony in Rochester, New York at 5 p.m. on Thursday October 21, in the Welles-Brown Room in Rush Rhees Library on the University of Rochester’s River Campus. The event, which will be followed by a reception and book signing, is free and open to the public.

Come Sunday was also a finalist for the prestigious Commonwealth Prize. The novel is now available in paperback (Picador, August 2010).

Morley moved to the United States in 1994 and has lived in some of the most culturally diverse places in the world, including Johannesburg, London and Honolulu. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Morley’s website is


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Diane Saarinen

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