University of Rochester

Nell Freudenberger Awarded Annual Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize

October 17, 2007

Author Nell Freudenberger will receive the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize from the University of Rochester for her novel The Dissident (Ecco Press, 2006). The novel follows the life of a Chinese artist who spends a semester teaching in an all girls' school in California.

Freudenberger will visit the University for an award ceremony and reading at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in the Welles-Brown Room in Rush Rhees Library on the University's River Campus. The event, which will be followed by a reception and book signing, is free and open to the public.

The writer's collection of stories, Lucky Girls, received the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in short fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Whiting Writer's Award and the O. Henry Award for short fiction. Freudenberger was named "one of the best young American novelists" under the age of 35 by Granta magazine this year.

Janet Catherine Berlo, Janet Heidinger Kafka Award Chair and professor of art history and visual and cultural studies at the University of Rochester, described the novel as a work that "interweaves the points of view of a Chinese activist artist, and the prosperous Caucasian family who hosts him when he comes to teach at their daughter's prep school. Both hilarious and serious, it deftly reveals individual personalities and cultural misunderstandings."

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. The $5,000 prize is given annually to an American woman who has written the best book-length work of prose fiction.

Family and friends of Janet Heidinger Kafka, a young editor killed in an automobile accident as her career was beginning, created the endowment that supports the award in memory of Kafka's high literary standards and personal ideals.

The Dissident is a novel about love, secrets, and the confusion of everyday American lifestyles. In a review, The Seattle Times noted Freudenberger's "merciless and often hilarious eye for family dynamics, and her equally sharp eye for cultures in collision." The New York Times Book Review announced "young writers as ambitious—and as good—as Nell Freudenberger give us a reason for hope." A Los Angeles native, Freudenberger used her California experiences in writing this book.

Freudenberger's work has been published in The New Yorker, Travel and Leisure, Salon, and The Telegraph Magazine. In addition, she has written book reviews for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vogue, and The Nation. She is a graduate of Harvard University and currently lives in New York City.