The winner of the twenty-five-thousand-dollar Bellwether Prize for an unpublished novel manuscript has been announced. Barbara Kingsolver—author of novels including The Bean Trees (Harper & Row, 1988) and The Lacuna (Harper, 2009) and the locavore memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (HarperCollins, 2007)—has selected the manuscript "Running the Rift" by Naomi Benaron of Tucson as the recipient of the biennial award, which includes publication by Algonquin Books. Also judging were inaugural Bellwether winner Donna Gershten and Algonquin editor Kathy Pories.
Benaron's novel, according to Kingsolver, "engages the reader with complex political questions about ethnic animosity in Rwanda and so many other issues relevant to North American readers." The prize, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, is given to recognize a first work of literary fiction that speaks to social justice issues.
"In my writing," Benaron said in a press release, "what has always mattered most is to carry the human consequences of injustice to the reader’s heart and thus in some small way, bring healing." The author, whose pursuits beyond writing include orthopedic massage, seismology, and the Ironman Triathlon, also works with African refugees in her community and women writers in Afghanistan, through the Afghan Women's Writing Project online.
The 2008 Bellwether Prize–winning novel, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow, was released last month, and the next competition will open in 2011.