Indian-origin American author Ruchika Tomar has been named the winner of the prestigious 2020 PEN/Hemingway Award for her debut novel 'A Prayer for Travelers' which the judges described as a "remarkable piece of writing, astute in style and structure".
Tomar, hailing from California, is currently a lecturer at Stanford University.
The award, honouring a "distinguished" first novel, includes a USD 25,000 prize and a month-long Residency Fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a retreat for artists and writers, valued at USD 10,000.
The judges described 'A Prayer for Travelers' as a "remarkable piece of writing, astute in style and structure and also in the story that it tells".
Unfolding in a small town in Nevada, the novel traces the friendship of two women, a relationship that grows complicated until it shatters, and one of the friends disappears.
"Tomar is an exquisite writer, and 'A Prayer for Travelers' is marked by a deft and deeply rendered sense of place. Even more, the novel pushes back against our preconceptions, shifting fluidly in time to evoke a sense of the floating nature of existence, especially for characters such as these, who find themselves, in nearly every way that matters, having to reckon with what it means to live on the periphery," the judges said.
Tomar said she is "incredibly grateful" to the Hemingway family and the Ernest Hemingway Foundation for the "sincere honour of this award, and to PEN America for their tireless advocacy on behalf of writers and international literature".
She holds a BA in English literature from the University of Califonia Irvine and an MFA from Columbia University. She has received fellowships from the Center for Fiction, the MacDowell Colony and Vermont Studio Center.
Tomar joins other notable PEN/Hemingway winners and honourees including Marilynne Robinson, Edward P Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Colson Whitehead, Tommy Orange, Jennifer Haigh, ZZ Packer, George Saunders, Ha Jin, Yiyun Li, Teju Cole, and Ottessa Moshfegh.
The PEN/Hemingway Award Ceremony takes place at the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston but due to current concerns of the COVID-19 virus, the 2020 ceremony is postponed until further notice.
The PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel honours a debut novel of exceptional merit by an American author who has not previously published a full-length book of fiction.
One winner will be selected by a panel of three esteemed writers.
The Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum spans Hemingway's entire lifetime and contains 90 per cent of existing Hemingway manuscript materials, making the Kennedy Library the world's principal centre for research on the life and work of Ernest Hemingway.
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