Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize

The Kafka Prize Winner for Fiction Published in 2014

This year's recipient of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction is Jacinda Townsend, for her novel Saint Monkey.

Meet the author!

On Tuesday, October 27, 2015 Townsend 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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Jacinda Townsend is the author of Saint Monkey (Norton, 2014), which is set in 1950’s Eastern Kentucky and won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for historical fiction.  Saint Monkey was also the 2015 Honor Book of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and was longlisted for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and shortlisted for the Crook’s Corner Book Prize. The novel received critical acclaim from numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, which reviewed it in the Sunday Book Review and listed in Paperback Row.  Saint Monkey was also listed in the Louisville Courier Journal’s Year-End Favorites and named to The Root’s Top Novel’s of 2014: it was chosen as May, 2015’s Book of the Month by the Go on Girl! national book club.

Jacinda grew up in Southcentral Kentucky.  She left at the age of sixteen, when she went to Harvard, where she took her first creative writing class.  While at Duke Law School she cross-registered in the English department, where she took her next few formative writing workshops, and in 1999, after four years of being first a broadcast journalist and then a lawyer in New York City, went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  Since receiving her M.F.A. she has been a Fulbright fellow to Côte d’Ivoire and has taught at universities throughout the Midwest. She recently finished a novel called Kif.  Portions of this novel have been published in Germ Magazine, Thin Air, and Generations Literary Journal.   An excerpt is forthcoming in the sequel to the anthology Degrees of Elevation, and an excerpt published in Pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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
  • Terry Platt, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Rochester

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