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Lisa Hsiao Chen, Lydia Conklin & Solmaz Sharif recognized by 2023 PEN America Literary Awards

(l-r) Lisa Hsiao Chen (photo: Hisayo Chen), Lydia Conklin (photo: Emily Ray Reese), Solmaz Sharif (photo: Emma Larson)

RJF Writers’ Awards Winners Lisa Hsiao Chen (’18), Lydia Conklin (’18) & Solmaz Sharif (’14) have been recognized by the 2023 PEN America Literary Awards.

Lisa Hsiao Chen (’18) Activities of Daily Living (W.W. Norton, 2022) Finalist for the 2023 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel.

“A lucid and moving debut novel on the interconnection between work and life, loneliness and kinship, and the projects that occupy our time. How do we take stock of a life—by what means, and by what measure? This is the question that preoccupies Alice, a Taiwanese immigrant in her late thirties. In the off-hours from her day job, Alice struggles to create a project about the enigmatic downtown performance artist Tehching Hsieh and his monumental, yearlong 1980s performance pieces. As Alice roots deeper into Hsieh’s radical use of time and his mysterious disappearance from the art world, her project starts metabolizing events from her own life. She wanders from subway rides to street protests, loses touch with a friend, and becomes a caretaker for her stepfather, a Vietnam vet whose dream of making traditional Chinese furniture dissolved in alcoholism and dementia. Moving between present-day and 1980s New York City, with detours to Silicon Valley and the Venice Biennale, Activities of Daily Living is a startlingly precise, vivid, and tender examination of the passage of time.” Lisa is also a finalist for the 2023 Gotham Book Prize. Lydia Conklin (’18) Rainbow Rainbow: Stories (Catapult, 2022) Longlist for the 2023 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection.

“In this exuberant, prize-winning collection, queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming characters seek love and connection in hilarious and heartrending stories that reflect the complexity of our current moment. A nonbinary writer on the eve of top surgery enters into a risky affair during the height of COVID. A lesbian couple enlists a close friend as a sperm donor, plying him with a potent rainbow-colored cocktail. A lonely office worker struggling with their gender identity chaperones their nephew to a trans YouTube convention. And in the depths of a Midwestern winter, a sex-addicted librarian relies on her pet ferrets to help resist a relapse at a wild college fair. Capturing both the dark and lovable sides of the human experience, Rainbow Rainbow establishes debut author Lydia Conklin as a fearless new voice for their generation.” Solmaz Sharif (’14) Customs (Graywolf, 2022) Longlist for the 2023 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award to a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact.

"Sharif examines what it means to exist in the nowhere of the arrivals terminal, a continual series of checkpoints, officers, searches, and questionings that become a relentless experience of America. With resignation and austerity, these poems trace a pointed indoctrination to the customs of the nation-state and the English language, and the realities they impose upon the imagination, the paces they put us through. While Sharif critiques the culture of performed social skills and poetry itself—its foreclosures, affects, successes—she begins to write her way out to the other side of acceptability and toward freedom. Customs is a brilliant, excoriating new collection by a poet whose unfolding works are among the groundbreaking literature of our time.”



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