Bellwether Prize Authors: Naomi Benaron & Hillary Jordan

Sunday, October 7, 2012 - 10:30am to 11:30am
  • Library Hall

Spend a very special morning with authors Naomi Benaron and Hillary Jordan, winners of Barbara Kingsolver’s coveted Bellwether Prize for socially engaged fiction.

The Bellwether Prize is awarded biennially for literature that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. Naomi Benaron, author of Running the Rift, and Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound and When She Woke, will  discus their novels and the evolution of those stories upon winning the Bellwether Prize. During this free community conversation, the authors will share personal insight into what this significant award has meant for their craft and for literature more broadly.

Thirteenth Street and library parking lot will be OPEN for this event, with access from the Yama River entrance! Construction is taking a break in honor of our literary events!

The Bambook Cafe, downstairs in the main library, will be open for coffee and snacks at 10 a.m., when the doors open for Library Hall.

About Naomi Benaron

Naomi Benaron

Naomi Benaron is the author of the 2010 Bellwether Prize winning novel Running the Rift which follows the story of young Rwandan runner Jean Patrick Nkuba from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life during the Hutu-Tutsi tensions. Benaron earned an MFA from Antioch University and an MS in earth sciences from Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Her first career was as a scientist, working as a seismologist and geophysicist. Despite her love for writing, she says she will never been cured of her love for rocks and waves – seismic, light, or oceanic. She teaches writing at the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, Pima Community College and through the Afghan Women’s Writing Project – an online group where Afghan women can express themselves in safety and in freedom.




Running the Rift

Benaron’s short story collection, Love Letters from a Fat Man, won the 2006 Sharat Chandra Prize for Fiction and the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. She is also a marathon runner, an Ironman triathlete, and has worked extensively with genocide survivor groups in Rwanda. Of writing she says, “Like my protagonist, Jean Patrick Nkuba, I run because I have to run. I also write because I have to write, because words and stanzas and stories spin in my mind no matter what else I am doing: running, swimming, making dinner. And I told the story of Jean Patrick Nkuba, a young Tutsi boy, because his voice would not let me be until I wrote it down.







Hillary Jordan

About Hillary Jordan
Hillary Jordan is a featured author at the 2012 Literary Sojourn festival of authors. She is the author of two novels, Mudbound and When She Woke. Her first novel, Mudbound, won the 2006 Bellwether Prize and the 2009 Alex Award from the American Library Association. Mudbound is a heartbreaking story of racial prejudice and loyalty in the 1940s Mississippi Delta. It was named one of the 10 best debut novels of the decade by Paste Magazine, long listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize, and was the 2008 NAIBA Fiction Book of the Year. Barbara Kingsolver called the book “storytelling at the height of its powers: the ache of wrongs not yet made right, the fierce attendance of history made as real as rain, as true as this minute. Hillary Jordan writes with the forceof a Delta storm. Her characters walked straight out of 1940's Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are with me still.”


Jordan’s most recent novel, When She Woke, is a powerful re-imagining of The Scarlet Letter set in modern times. The New York Times calls it is a “feverishly conceived dystopia (that) holds its own alongside the dark inventions of Margaret Atwood and Ray Bradbury.” Named one of BookPage’s Best Books of 2011, When She Woke, “blends hot-button issues such as separation of church and state, abortion and criminal justice with an utterly engrossing story, driven by a heroine as layered and magnetic as Hester Prynne herself,” says Booklist. Jordan received her BA in English and Political Science from Wellesley College and spent fifteen years working as an advertising copywriter before starting to write fiction. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. Jordan grew up in Dallas, TX and Muskogee, OK. She lives in Brooklyn.

About the Bellwether Prize
The Bellwether Prize was established in 2000 by Barbara Kingsolver to promote fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The $25,000 prize is awarded biennially to the author of a previously unpublished novel of high literary caliber that exemplifies the prize’s founding principles. The winner also receives a publishing contract with Algonquin Books. The Bellwether Prize is funded entirely by Kingsolver and administered by the PEN American Center.

Previous Bellwether Prize recipients include Donna Gershten in 2000 for Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth; Gayle Brandeis in 2002 for The Book of Dead Birds; Marjorie Kowalski Cole in 2004 for Correcting the Landscape; and Heidi W. Durrow in 2008 for The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.

Hillary Jordan and Naomi Benaron’s books will be available on site for sale and author signing courtesy of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.