WINNER »

2020

Mari Christmas

fiction

Mari Christmas is an assistant professor at Allegheny College and splits her time between Idaho and Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. from Haverford College, her M.F.A. from the University of Notre Dame, and she has just completed her Ph.D. from SUNY Albany. 


Her fierce, darkly humorous, emotionally riveting work explores and embodies today’s world reflecting our deepest anxieties and the complexities of current-day feminism, motherhood, and modern love. Christmas’s fiction has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, New Ohio Review, Juked, Fence, and Black Warrior Review. She has received fellowships from Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and Surel’s Place. She has also begun a novel entitled Fugue States that traces the path of the narrator as she navigates her own difficult relationship to new motherhood. 


Her nominator writes: “Mari Christmas is an independent, thoughtful, and ambitious thinker, and has what I have come to believe is one of the most unique writing voices of her generation. Transgressive and socially engaged, her fiction is informed by her identity as Japanese and American, her existence between languages and cultures. She pushes the boundaries of possibility in order to forge new ground for thinking about not only what it means to be a writer but also human. The questions that she asks are urgent: What are the ethics of aesthetics? And, how can the female body, particularly a body that has experienced loss, be mapped onto the page?” 


Her Writer’s Award will allow her to reduce her teaching load next year and pay for child care so she can focus on these writing projects. She says, “This award is not just a financial gift. It is an affirmation of the ways in which women continue to reach out to one another, and how we are able to nourish and support each other as artists and thinkers in times of crisis.”

Excerpt from “A Non-Orientable Surface,” New Ohio Review Summer Exclusive, Summer 2018.


“There are some existential questions that come with the end of a marriage, and I am making a list of them. For one, I am no longer certain where I am going to be buried. This is what troubles me most, that I do not belong anywhere. Cemeteries confuse me—bodies lining the outskirts of towns, littering the highways. When I drive past the city limits, I look out at the tiny tombstones cropping along the hills, a series of quiet expressions. I do not understand why we bury the dead where they cannot see us.”

The Rona Jaffe Foundation  //  Supporting Emerging Women Writers since 1995

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