WEST HARTFORD ― The University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies has named author Rebecca Dinerstein as the 2015 Edward Lewis Wallant Award winner for her debut novel, The Sunlit Night. Dinerstein will receive her award at a ceremony to be held Wednesday evening, April 13, at the university.
The Sunlit Night, is set in the beautiful, barren landscape of the Far North, under the ever-present midnight sun. There, we find Frances and Yasha, whose lives have been upended — Frances has fled heartbreak and claustrophobic Manhattan for an isolated artist colony; Yasha arrives from Brooklyn to fulfill his beloved father’s last wish: to be buried “at the top of the world.” They have come to learn how to be alone. But in Lofoten, an archipelago of six tiny islands in the Norwegian Sea, 95 miles north of the Arctic Circle, they are surprised to find refuge in one another. Dinerstein’s message: No matter how far we travel to claim our own territory, it is ultimately love that gives us our place in the world.
In addition to The Sunlit Night, Dinerstein is the author of the bilingual English-Norwegian collection of poems Lofoten. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New Yorker, among others. A resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., she received her B.A. from Yale and her M.F.A. in Fiction from New York University, where she was a Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellow.
This year, the Greenberg Center has also named one finalist for the 2015 Wallant Award: Daniel Torday, author of The Last Flight of Poxl, a book-within-a-book memoir of Poxl West, whose tales of flying bombers for the RAF during World War II make him a larger than life hero to his nephew, Elijah. Torday is a former editor at Esquire, and serves as an editor at The Kenyon Review. He is director of creative writing at Bryn Mawr College.
Established in 1963 by Dr. and Mrs. Irving Waltman of West Hartford to honor the memory of the late Edward Lewis Wallant, author of several 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. Past recipients of the Wallant Award include Cynthia Ozick, Curt Leviant, Chaim Potok, Myla Goldberg, Dara Horn, Nicole Krauss, and Julie Orringer, as well as last year’s winner, David Bezmozgis. This year’s Wallant Award ceremony will also mark the re-publication of Wallant’s most famous novel, The Pawnbroker.
The ceremony will also include a tribute to the late Mark Shechner, professor emeritus of English at the University at Buffalo. Shechner, who served as a Wallant Award judge from 2007 until his passing in 2015, was the author of several books, including, After the Revolution: Studies in the Contemporary Jewish American Imagination and Up Society’s Ass, Copper: The Fiction of Philip Roth. In 2014, he published the novel Call Me Moishe: The True Confessions of a White Whale, a novel which retells the story of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, as told by Moby. Most recently, Shechner was co-editor of The New Diaspora: The Changing Landscape of American Jewish Literature, a collection of recent works published by Wallant Award winners and finalists in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wallant Award.