Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize

The Kafka Prize Winner for Fiction Published in 2015

This year's recipient of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction is Mia Alvar, for her collection of short stories In the Country.

Meet the author!

On Thursday, October 27, 2016 Alvar will visit Rochester for a reading and award ceremony, followed by an hors d’oeuvres reception and book signing in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of the Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester. The event begins at 5:00pm. Books will be available for purchase, provided by the Barnes and Noble Campus Bookstore. Free parking is available in Library Lot.

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About Mia Alvar and In the Country

"Alvar was born in the Philippines and raised in Bahrain, before moving to the United States to study and earn her B.A. at Harvard University and an MFA at the Columbia University School of the Arts. In the Country, a collection of nine stories that interconnect through their exploration of the Filipino diaspora, is her debut work of fiction. The stories create morally and culturally complex characters who are engaged in negotiating the challenges of migration away from home for economic reasons and confronting the equally fraught experience of returning home. A pharmacist residing in New York City smuggles medication to his terminally ill father in Manila and discovers unexpected truths about his family. A private tutor to a multiply disabled child in Bahrain learns that defending the illusions treasured by the little girl's wealthy mother is just as necessary and humane an act as teaching her daughter simple skills. "Deception is my duty" the teacher realizes. Alvar provides insights into the rarely written lives of first-generation Filipinos living in the Middle East and the United States, and her beautiful, lucid prose, rich in irony, subtlety and compassion, draws her readers into their environment and their inner lives. This is the first time that the Janet Heininger Kafka Prize has been awarded to a short story collection. In the Country stood out as the selection committee's unanimous choice among almost 150 entries for its ability to craft a cohesive, intricately wrought world out of nine separate narratives." -Beth Jorgensen, Professor of Spanish, Member of the 2016 Kafka Prize Committee

About the Award

Since 1976, the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies and the Department of English at the University of Rochester have awarded the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for fiction by an American woman. The idea for the prize came out of the personal grief of the friends and family of a fine young editor who was killed in an automobile accident just as her career was beginning to achieve its promise of excellence. She was 30 years old, and those who knew her believed she would do much to further the causes of literature and women. Her family, her friends, and her professional associates in the publishing industry created the endowment from which the prize is bestowed, in memory of Janet Heidinger Kafka and the literary standards and personal ideals for which she stood.

Each year a substantial cash prize is awarded annually to a woman who is a USA citizen, and who has written the best book-length work of prose fiction, whether novel, short stories, or experimental writing. We are particularly interested in calling attention to the work of a promising but less established writer.

About the Committee

This year's Committee members were:

  • Beth Jörgensen, Professor of Spanish, University of Rochester
  • Jason Peck, Visiting Assistant Professor of German, University of Rochester
  • Katherine Mannheimer, Associate Professor of English, University of Rochester

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