Intersection for the Arts and The San Francisco Foundation Announce the 2009 Jackson Phelan Tanenbaum Literary Awardees

2009 Joseph Henry Jackson Award – Youmna Chlala of San Francisco, CA

2009 James Duval Phelan Award – Edan Lepucki of Los Angeles, CA

2009 Mary Tanenbaum Award for Nonfiction – Page McBee of Oakland, CA

(SAN FRANCISCO) – October 21, 2009 – The distinguished Joseph Henry Jackson, James Duval Phelan, and Mary Tanenbaum Nonfiction Literary Awards, sponsored by The San Francisco Foundation and administered by Intersection for the Arts since 1991, are offered annually to encourage young writers (20 to 35 years old), who are either California-born or currently residing in Northern California or Nevada, for an unpublished manuscript-in-progress. 2009 marks the 52nd annual Jackson Award, the 72nd annual Phelan Award, and the 19th annual Tanenbaum Award. In addition to a $2,000 cash award for each of the three awards, the award-winning manuscripts will be permanently housed at U.C. Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. Each of the 2009 award winners will read from their award-winning manuscripts. These awards have proven to be instrumental in the careers of young writers, many of whom have gone on to securing either literary agents or publishing contracts as a result of these awards. Over 180 manuscripts of fiction (novels and short stories), poetry, nonfictional prose, graphic novel, and drama were submitted to the awards. This year’s competition was judged by Persis M. Karim, Toni Mirosevich, and giovanni singleton.

About the winners

Youmna Chlala is a writer and visual artist. She received her MFA at the California College of the Arts where she was also the Founding Editor of Eleven Eleven {1111} Journal of Literature and Art. Nominated for a Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, she has published in the MIT Journal for Middle Eastern Studies, XCP: Journal of Cross Cultural Poetics. She is the recipient of residencies at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook and Can Serrat, among others. She also received a Walker Fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She has read her fiction for Neighborhood Public Radio’s project in the 2008 Whitney Biannual, and is working on a novel about architecture in Beirut and Los Angeles. She is currently visiting faculty at LaGuardia Community College and Pratt Institute in New York. The official award citation for Youmna Chlala’s 2009 Joseph Henry Jackson Award winning poetry manuscript “The Paper Camera” states:

In The Paper Camera “wings crocheted from orange blossoms” and “windows stained pink with rosewater” serve as richly storied lenses. Whether digital or disposable, Youmna Chlala gives us an expansive view of struggle, of emotion, and of all that is as fragile and as impermanent as paper. These poems are unnerving in that they seem unaware of their identity as poems. The words, their images, come in close, befriend you but not without a shadow presence, not without the negative from which they have been developed. Often the poems’ ambiguous endings arrive unmarked, unpunctuated. And beyond this appears to be an unescorted haunting wrapped in paper silence. Geography and history become stones thrown into water, rippling outward into the ordinariness, the simple grace of the everyday. And for this we “walk across olive groves to get to the almond, to crack it in our teeth suck its juice.” Many tongues, crumpled or neatly folded, seek to articulate the inherent complications of nature, of wholeness, of belonging, and even of breakfast. We are reminded that war in the world makes language and its translations a battleground. Ultimately, The Paper Camera brilliantly exposes the unraveling of existence and offers a glimpse of our own necessary rise from ash. – 2009 Panel of Judges: Persis M. Karim, Toni Mirosevich & giovanni singleton

Edan Lepucki was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her fiction has been published in Narrative Magazine, Meridian, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine, among others. She is a regular contributor to the popular books and culture website The Millions and she has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Ucross Foundation, and the Squaw Valley Writers’ Conference. She has recently finished a novel. The official award citation for Edan Lepucki’s 2009 James Duval Phelan Award winning fiction manuscript “Days of Insignificance and Evil” states:

“But wait. I want to tell you another story, one that happened a few years before this. It must be related.” So says Rosalyn, the fourteen year old narrator in Edan Lepucki’s Days of Insignificance and Evil. In this remarkable and revelatory new novel we find Rosalyn carried along by events beyond her control—parents who abandon her to an older sister’s care, a new home life full of fracture, secret liaisons, and mysterious clues to a violent historical event; the all-female 1904 Los Angeles Iron Foundry Rebellion. As readers we’re carried along by a narrative voice in total control. Lepucki gives us a character that comes across as true and familiar as someone we know very well. Someone willing to share their secrets with us. Like the narrator we are quickly on the hunt to find out more about that past event.  Members of the rebellion surprise us by interrupting Rosalyn’s narrative and bringing their flesh and blood voices to the mix. Via that weave of past and present Lepucki makes disparate worlds and time periods cohere in ways the reader never anticipates. Here’s a writer who has the extraordinary ability to make both worlds—and all worlds—true simultaneously. And as we turn each page we know there’s always another story waiting, another twist and turn, a dog leg into the past, a time bomb in the present. Go ahead, we want to say. Tell us another one. Serendipity or coincidence, chance or fate. It must all be related. – 2009 Panel of Judges: Persis M. Karim, Toni Mirosevich, & giovanni singleton

Page McBee is in her fourth year as a writer-in-residence at the San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA). She has co-curated and co-organized the multidisciplinary San Francisco arts event series “Go” as well as the Pittsburgh arm of the reading series, “K’vetsh.” Page has been published most recently in Big Bell and the anthology, Baby, Remember My Name, and is currently a guest blogger exploring representations of the body for Bitch magazine. Page was selected to attend RADAR Production’s writers’ retreat, Radar LAB, in 2009. Page has worked in education at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Academic Talent Development Program at U.C. Berkeley, and at the Academy of Arts and Sciences in San Francisco. In 2008, Page served as the Literary Arts Curator for SFUSD’s district-wide Young at Art event. Page’s writing can be found in multiple print and online publications, as well as on her website, Page holds an MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State, and a BFA in creative writing from Emerson College. The official award citation for Page McBee’s 2009 Mary Tanenbaum Literary Award winning nonfiction manuscript, “This Fragile Fortress” states:

When a piece of writing troubles us, stirs us, ignites our curiosity, and leaves us wanting more, we know deep-down that this writer has something to say. Such is the case with Page McBee’s “The Fragile Fortress,” an ambitious hybrid collection of interpersonal essays that explore the body and the meaning of embodiment. McBee’s challenge is to find a language that gets at both the comfort of bodies and the estrangement that they also evoke. Her essays, informed by scientific philosophy, mythology and the concept of liminality, are undergirded by a deeply personal exploration into her own journey through the transgender experience. Her work in this collection is to erect an archive that is woven from her own stories and the stories we tell ourselves as humans. Just as readily, however, McBee aims to undermine that same archive with a recognition of how truly fragile we are–even when we build a fortress of stories around ourselves. Her work is rich with possibilities and inventive in its attempts to move beyond merely an exotic narrative of “self” but instead in grappling with bigger ideas which she identifies as “trauma, healing, expression, memory, and history.” – 2008 Panel of Judges: Persis M. Karim, Toni Mirosevich, & giovanni singleton

About the namesakes of these awards

Joseph Henry Jackson moved to California after WWI and became editor of Sunset Magazine from 1926-28. From 1924-1943 he hosted the radio program “Bookman’s Guide,” and in 1930 he became literary editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, continuing in that role for the rest of his life and gaining national prominence. He was also the author or editor of some dozen books, often concerning California history. He served on many literary boards, including the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Harper Prize Novel, and the Pulitzer Prize. In his book columns and by personal contact, Jackson was always interested in discovering and encouraging new writers. Appropriately, his friends established the Jackson Award at The San Francisco Foundation after his death in 1955.

James Duval Phelan was born, raised, and educated in San Francisco before entering the family banking business. In 1897 he ran for mayor of San Francisco, was elected and re-elected twice, gaining a great reputation for drafting a new city charter and beautifying the city through new parks and playgrounds. Later elected to the U.S. Senate, he served as a Democrat from 1915 to 1921. During his lifetime he encouraged and financially aided writers, artists and musicians, for whom he provided very generously through his will after his death in 1930.

Mary Tanenbaum began her career as a journalist after her graduation from Stanford in 1936. Her first job was book reviewing with Joseph Henry Jackson for the San Francisco Chronicle; her articles on books, travel, fashion, and personalities have appeared in the Chronicle, The New York Times, the New York Herald-Tribune, and The Christian Science Monitor. The Tanenbaum Award was made permanent in 2000 by her husband Charles in memory of Mrs. Tanenbaum’s legacy as an author.

About the judges

Persis M. Karim has been an associate professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San Jose State University since 1999. She received both her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and her M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been a visiting scholar at the California College of the Arts, and has taught at UC Santa Cruz and University of Texas at Austin. She is the editor of Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (University of Arkansas Press, 2006) and co-editor of A World Between: Poetry, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans (George Braziller, Inc. Publishers, 1999). She has published articles in the Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Literature (Greenwood Press, 2005), Women Without Men (The Feminist Press, 2004), Twenty-First Century American Novelists (Thomson/Gale, 2004), and her poetry in Alimentum, Reed Magazine, Caesura: The Journal of the Poetry Center San Jose, Heartlodge, and Asian American Literature. Karim has also participated in conferences at the University of Maryland, Santa Clara University, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, Annual Meeting of the Modern Language Association, University of Utah, and UC Santa Cruz. She is currently working on a collection of essays, In the Belly of the Great Satan: Art, Literature and the Emergence of Iranian American Identity. This is Karim’s third and final year serving as a judge for the Jackson Phelan Tanenbaum Literary Awards.

Toni Mirosevich grew up in Everett, Washington, in a Croatian-American fishing family, part of an extensive immigrant Slav community. Her first jobs—as a truck driver, attic insulator and weatherizer, swimming pool operator, blood bank mobile unit operator, janitor, and handyperson—were, in the 70s, viewed as nontraditional work fields for women. In her early thirties, she received her M.A. and M.F.A. in creative writing at San Francisco State University, where she began teaching as a lecturer in creative writing in 1991. Firebrand Books published her first book of poetry and prose, The Rooms We Make Our Own, in 1996. That same year, Mirosevich became associate director of the Poetry Center and the American Poetry Archives. Her book of poetry, Queer Street (Custom Words) was published in 2005. Another poetry collection, My Oblique Strategies, won the 2005 Frank O’Hara Chapbook Award and was published by Thorngate Road. She has been the recipient of the Astraea Foundation Emerging Lesbian Writer in Fiction Award, Pushcart Prize, and Lambda Literary Award nominations, and has received fellowship support from the MacDowell Colony, the Willard R. Espy Foundation, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. Mirosevich writes and teaches in multiple genres. Her award-winning work has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Gastronomica, Puerto del Sol, UTNE, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, and various other publications. Poems and nonfiction stories have been anthologized in Best American Travel Writing, The Impossible Will Take A Little While, The Discovery of Poetry, Best of the Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Toni Mirosevich is a professor in creative writing at San Francisco State University, and lives in Pacifica, California. This is Mirosevich’s second year serving as a judge for the Jackson Phelan Tanenbaum Literary Awards.

giovanni singleton received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from New College of California and her B.A. in Communications/Print Journalism from The American University. She has been a visiting writer at California State University of Los Angeles, writer in residence at School of the Arts in San Francisco, instructor at St. Mary’s College, and a teacher with WritersCorps in San Francisco. She is the founding editor of nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts, and has published her own work in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Five Fingers Review, Callaloo, Fence, Chain, Proliferation, and MIRAGE #4/PERIOD(ICAL). She has served on the board of directors at The Poetry Center and Archives at San Francisco State University and Small Press Traffic Literary Arts Center. She was a fellow at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Poetry Workshop, a visiting writer at Cave Canem: A Workshop for African-American Poets, a fellow at The Virginia Commonwealth University’s Zora Neal Hurston/Richard Wright Poetry Workshop, and was a recipient of a New Langton Arts Bay Area Award for Literature. This is singleton’s third and final year serving as a judge for the Jackson Phelan Tanenbaum Literary Awards.