Mari Christmas Recieves 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award

Mari Christmas Recieves 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award

Monday, October 12, 2020

(2017 Alum) Mari Christmas is one of six writers to be awarded a 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. Celebrating its 26th year, the annual Rona Jaffe Awards recognize women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers, offering encouragement and financial support at a critical time.

The other 2020 recipients are Hannah Bae (nonfiction), Yalitza Ferreras (fiction), Temim Fruchter (fiction), Elisa Gonzalez (poetry), and Charleen McClure (poetry). The winners received awards of $30,000 each.

Celebrated novelist Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program in 1995. Since the program began, the Foundation has awarded more than $3 million to emergent women writers, including several who have gone on to critical acclaim, such as Rachel Aviv, Elif Batuman, Chelsea Bieker, Eula Biss, Lan Samantha Chang, Ebony Flowers, Vievee Francis, Rivka Galchen, Vanessa Hua, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, ZZ Packer, Helen Phillips, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Namwali Serpell, Solmaz Sharif, Tracy K. Smith, Mary Szybist, and Tiphanie Yanique.

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.”

Congratulations Mari!