Eight Finalists Named for 2015 Chautauqua Prize

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Literary award honors books that provide a 'richly rewarding reading experience'

Chautauqua Institution is pleased to announce eight exceptional books as the 2015 finalists for The Chautauqua Prize:

"The Map Thief," by Michael Blanding (Gotham/Avery)
"Byrd," by Kim Church (Dzanc Books)
"The Bully of Order," by Brian Hart (HarperCollins)
"Euphoria," by Lily King (Grove Atlantic/Atlantic Monthly)
"Redeployment," by Phil Klay (The Penguin Press)
"All Eyes Are Upon Us," by Jason Sokol (Basic Books)
"The Scatter Here is Too Great," by Bilal Tanweer (Harper)
"The Witch," by Jean Thompson (Blue Rider Press)

The winning book will be selected from this shortlist and announced in mid-May.

In "The Map Thief," readers are taken into the high-stakes work of map dealing, a history of cartography and the true story of a rare map dealer who made millions stealing priceless pieces of history. Readers called it a “page turner” that pulled them in from the first pages, and said that Blanding “did an terrific job of weaving together the history of cartography with a gripping story of thievery, deceit and a double life."

A novel told in vignettes and letters, "Byrd" is a meditation on family, the choices we make and the ripples of consequence that spread out through the years. Readers lauded Church’s ability to take the subject of adoption and shine new light upon it, in a writing style that is “succinct; Church says a lot with few words, picking her details wisely.” It is a novel, another said, with “strength and power, and a deft and delicate touch.”

"The Bully of Order," a novel depicting the lawless Pacific Coast at the turn of the 20th century, tracks the lives of a family at the mercy of violent social and historical forces. Readers said that while the story is “violent, dark and crude,” Hart’s “artistry with the language” and “exacting, loving detail,” creates a clear, dramatic narrative.

Drawing on the real-life experiences and writing of Margaret Mead as inspiration, "Euphoria" follows the dangerously intertwined lives of three anthropologists studying tribes in New Guinea. King, readers said, “is not one to fall prey to cheap contrivances,” deftly building suspense among the “compelling depicted characters.” All told, one reader said, “'Euphoria' is a gem.”

In the National Book Award-winning "Redeployment," the horrors of war take center stage. As they read about characters on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, readers called the short stories “explicit, emotional and also enlightening,” that they “cut to the marrow of the warrior. … Each skillfully constructed narrative tells a tale of emotional, physical or spiritual depths."

"All Eyes Are Upon Us" is a history of race and politics in the Northeast, a region with a long and celebrated history of racial equality and liberalism. But Sokol’s book reveals the deep-seated racism in the region, and a resulting gap between its ideals and its reality. Readers called the book “timely, important and fascinating,” and Sokol’s research “clearly presented.”

Interconnected short stories make up the novel of "The Scatter Here is Too Great," a love letter to the Pakistan city of Karachi, its inhabitants and the often-violent interruptions to their daily lives. Tanweer is a “masterful writer,” a reader said, while another described the work as “a lyrical meditation and a brilliant book.”

The short stories of "The Witch" refreshingly reintroduce readers to classic fairy tales, told in contemporary settings while still retaining the magic and suspense of their source material. Chautauqua Prize readers called Thompson’s writing “elegant in its simplicity” and “a reader’s delight,” and commended the stories for being “gripping tales, refreshing our pleasure in storytelling as an art that warns, instructs and enthralls.”

Awarded annually since 2012, The Chautauqua Prize draws upon Chautauqua Institution’s considerable literary legacy to celebrate a book that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and to honor the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts. The author of the winning book will receive $7,500 and all travel and expenses for a one-week summer residency at Chautauqua.

With a history steeped in the literary arts, Chautauqua Institution is the home of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, founded in 1878, which honors at least nine outstanding books of fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry every summer. Further literary arts programming at Chautauqua includes summer-long interaction of published and aspiring writers at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, the intensive workshops of the nationally recognized Chautauqua Writers’ Festival, and lectures by prominent authors on the art and craft of writing.

Details on The Chautauqua Prize are online at ciweb.org/prize.

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Jordan Steves
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