News & Announcements

Seven Finalists Named for 2018 Chautauqua Prize

Chautauqua Institution is pleased to announce seven exceptional books as the 2018 finalists for The Chautauqua Prize, now in its seventh year:

  • Salt Houses, by Hala Alyan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic, by Glenn Frankel (Bloomsbury)
  • The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading, by Anne Gisleson (Little, Brown)
  • The Wanderers, by Meg Howrey (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
  • The Signal Flame, by Andrew Krivák (Scribner)
  • The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir, by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (Flatiron Books)
  • The Worlds We Think We Know, by Dalia Rosenfeld (Milkweed Editions)

The winning book will be selected from this shortlist and announced in mid-May.

In her debut novel Salt Houses, Hala Alyan creates a story that spans decades, generations, and countries, as a Palestinian family is caught between the present and the past, between displacement and home. Salt Houses, readers said, is a "grand, epochal book," and Alyan writes "lyrically," with "a delicacy about the prose … even when those surroundings are soiled by war and unhappiness." With "sharply drawn, distinctive characters," Salt Houses is "a marvel of graceful construction."

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Glenn Frankel's High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic covers the evolution of "High Noon" from idea, to first draft, to final script, taking on allegorical weight. Set in the height of a time of political inquisition and personal betrayal, High Noon's story becomes, in the words of one reader, "a template for principle and courage … a statement about integrity." Frankel, wrote another, "turns worthwhile and diligent research into a compelling story of how fragile the creation of art can be."

In her memoir of friendship, literature and New Orleans, The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading, Anne Gisleson creates a guide to living curiously and fully. In a testament to the power of reading and community to reconcile with loss, The Futilitarians is "brutal, heart-breaking, magnificent," one reader wrote. Another reader lauded Gisleson's voice, "intensely her own. She is intuitive and highly observant. … Her real subject is the human experience, and she explores it through literature, philosophy, and her own stories."

Meg Howrey's The Wanderers takes readers deep into the psyche of the human heart. As four astronauts prepare for a mission to Mars, they must first spend more than a year in an isolating, and all-too-realistic, simulation. Howrey's novel is a story of exploration, and what rests behind that desire to explore: the longing for discovery and connection. Readers said Howrey presents "an insightful and intense study" of human nature, and called her writing "lyrical, and often enticingly epigrammatic." The book, one wrote, "is definitely a singular achievement."

In Andrew Krivák's follow-up to the inaugural Chautauqua Prize-winning The Sojourn, readers return to the Vinich family — three generations under one roof, a war-haunted family in a war-torn century. Told over the course of several months in 1972, The Signal Flame gracefully evokes ordinary time, a period of living and working while waiting, watching and expecting. Readers called it a "beautiful, quiet, and lovely" work, and "one of the best novels I have read in years."

Part reportage and part memoir, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich's The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir follows a young law student through her early career as she digs into both her own past, and the past of a convicted murderer. In a book 10 years in the making, Marzano-Lesnevich shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe, creating a "gripping" story of "great importance." Readers called it "an extraordinary memoir" that is "brave and intimate."

Dalia Rosenfeld's debut collection of short stories, The Worlds We Think We Know, takes readers from the United States to Israel and back again as they examine the mystifying reaches of our own minds and hearts, where the foreign becomes the familiar and the mundane, magical. It is a collection that readers called "heart-rending, empathetic, powerful and amazing." "With its particular cadence of meter, rhythm and emotion," one wrote, "each tale is a superbly executed story." Readers also lauded "the emotional depth of the work, the spare, dazzling language, and Rosenfeld's keen observations of human nature."

Awarded annually since 2012, The Chautauqua Prize draws upon Chautauqua Institution’s considerable literary legacy to celebrate a book that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and to honor the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts. The author of the winning book will receive $7,500 and all travel and expenses for a one-week summer residency at Chautauqua. For more information, visit chq.org/prize.

With a history steeped in the literary arts, Chautauqua Institution is the home of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, founded in 1878, which honors at least nine outstanding books of fiction, nonfiction and poetry every summer. The Chautauqua Prize, awarded annually since 2012, celebrates a book of fiction or literary/narrative nonfiction that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and a significant contribution to the literary arts. For three decades, writers have convened in weekly workshops with nationally recognized authors at the Writers’ Center, and the Writers’ Festival and literary journal Chautauqua continue to engage new readers and writers every year.

The pre-eminent expression of lifelong learning in the United States, Chautauqua Institution comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. Over the course of nine weeks, more than 100,000 people visit Chautauqua and participate in programs, classes and community events for all ages — all within the beautiful setting of a historic lakeside village. As a community, we celebrate, encourage and study the arts and treat them as integral to all of learning, and we convene the critical conversations of the day to advance understanding through civil dialogue.

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