The PEN/Faulkner Foundation announced today that Karen Joy Fowler has won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her most recent novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. The $15,000 prize honors a book of fiction by an American author published in the previous year.
Fowler is the author of six novels, including the bestselling The Jane Austen Book Club (Putnam, 2004), and five short story collections. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, published by Marian Wood last May, is loosely inspired by the work of psychologist Winthrop Kellogg in the early 1930s, and tells the story of a young woman raised with a chimpanzee as a sister.
Known for writing genre-bending work, Fowler also cofounded the James Tiptree Jr. Award in 1991, a literary prize given annually for works of science fiction and fantasy that explore the understanding of gender. The prize is named for science fiction author Alice Sheldon, who wrote under the pen name James Tiptree Jr.
In the following podcast from Aspen Public Radio’s First Draft series, Fowler discusses the new book, her process and inspiration, and how she came to be a writer.
The judges for this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award were Madison Smartt Bell, Manuel Muñoz, and Achy Obejas. Fowler’s novel was chosen from more than 430 novels and short story collections. In a statement released this morning, Muñoz said, “Fowler captures an altogether new dimension of the meaning—and heartbreak—of family dynamics.” Smartt Bell added, “This is a book that really does tell us something new about what it is to be human—and what it is not to be."
The finalists for the award included two short story collections, Joan Silber’s Fools (Norton) and Valerie Trueblood’s Search Party (Counterpoint); and two novels, Daniel Alarcón’s At Night We Walk in Circles (Riverhead) and Percival Everett’s Percival Everett by Virgil Russell (Graywolf). Each finalist will receive $5,000.
Fowler and the four finalists will be honored at the 34th annual PEN/Faulkner Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on May 10.
In the video below, Fowler reads an early excerpt from We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, originally published in the literary magazine ZYZZYVA.