2019 Chautauqua Prize Presentation

Friday, August 16, 2019

Location Hall of Philosophy

Gate pass required. Purchase at our Main Gate Welcome Center, (716) 357-6250.

All the Names They Used for God: Stories, by Anjali Sachdeva, is the 2019 winner of The Chautauqua Prize.

A public reading will take place at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, in the Hall of Philosophy.

Sachdeva said she was “incredibly grateful for all Chautauqua Institution has done to celebrate the arts and their potential to enrich our lives. To me, the Prize represents not only an amazing honor, but key support that will help me to continue writing.” 

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill said awarding the Prize to Sachdeva’s book highlights the role of Chautauqua in fostering and celebrating both established and developing voices in the literary arts. 

“The Chautauqua Prize was created to celebrate a book that provides a richly rewarding reading experience — of which All the Names They Used for God truly is — and honor the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts. These are standards every literary writer strives toward, whether they’ve published dozens of works, or are just establishing themselves,” Hill said. “The fact that Anjali Sachdeva has created not just one world, but many worlds, that delight, enchant, challenge, provoke and thrill is truly a testament to a writer in command of her craft. By awarding All the Names with our highest literary honor, we celebrate the writer Anjali is, and hope to foster the writer she will become.”  

“With its extraordinary ability to traverse genre expectations and plunge us deep into wholly realized, seemingly disparate worlds, All The Names They Use for God is an exceptional example of literature that lures readers deep, deep into stories in which we, fueled by our mutual curiosity and imagination, fear and wonder, are willing to travel together and ultimately discover our shared humanity,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “This is literature that rewards by breaking down our traditional reading silos and, in doing so, connects a broader community of readers.” 

The stories in All the Names They Used for God straddle genres — from science fiction to American Gothic to magical realism to horror — and are united by each character’s brutal struggle with fate. Prize readers lauded “the sheer variety of subjects and imaginative plots,” and Sachdeva’s “fluid, imaginative treatment” of each story in the collection. As readers “bridge the real and the surreal,” they found themselves considering “the ways in which myth, fantasy, technology and destiny play out” in their own lives. 

All the Names They Used for God has also been named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, Refinery 29 and BookRiot, longlisted for the Story Prize, named a must-read book for 2018 by Elle and AM New York, and a top read by Harper’s BazaarEntertainment WeeklyFast CompanyThe Christian Science MonitorBustleShondaland,Popsugar and Sada El-Balad, and chosen as the 2018 Fiction Book of the Year by the “Reading Women” podcast.

Sachdeva is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught writing at the University of Iowa, Augustana College and Carnegie Mellon University. She also worked for six years at the Creative Nonfiction Foundation, where she was Director of Educational Programs. She currently teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and in the MFA program at Randolph College.

The Chautauqua Prize, this year awarded for the eighth time, is an annual prize that celebrates a book of fiction or literary/narrative nonfiction that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and honors the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts. Previous winners include The Sojourn, by Andrew Krivák (2012); Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, by Timothy Egan (2013); My Foreign Cities, by Elizabeth Scarboro (2014); Redeployment, by Phil Klay (2015); Off the Radar, by Cyrus Copeland (2016); The Fortunes, by Peter Ho Davies (2017); and The Fact of a Body, by Alex Marzano-Lesnevich (2018).

Winners of The Chautauqua Prize are noteworthy for their capacity to open up inquiry that invites many different kinds of readers into conversation, situating the book as an ideal opportunity to engage in Chautauqua Institution’s historic tradition of reading and discussion in community. Chautauqua’s other annual literary award, the Chautauqua Janus Prize, celebrates experimental writers who have not yet published a book. Taken together, these prizes ensure that both tradition and innovation live at the heart of a Chautauqua reader’s life of learning.

Details on The Chautauqua Prize are available online at chq.org/prize. Books published in 2019 will be accepted as submissions for the 2020 Prize beginning in September 2019.