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Henkin Wins Greenberg Center’s Wallant Award for His Novel, "The World Without You"


Posted 03/25/2013
Posted by David Isgur

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The Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford has named author Joshua Henkin the 2012 Edward Lewis Wallant Award winner for his outstanding novel, The World Without You. The presentation ceremony, which will include a talk by Henkin and comments from the Wallant Award judges, will be held on Wednesday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in the University’s Wilde Auditorium.  

This special ceremony will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, created in 1963 by the Waltman Family of West Hartford, which the Greenberg Center will mark with the publication of a Wallant Award anthology of past winners and finalists, titled The New Diaspora: The Changing Face of American Jewish Fiction, edited by Victoria Aarons (Trinity University), Mark Shechner (University at Buffalo) and Avinoam Patt (University of Hartford).

Admission to the Wallant Award presentation ceremony is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Please call 860.768.4964 to make a reservation for the event, which will be held in Wilde Auditorium in the Harry Jack Gray Center on the University of Hartford campus, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford.

Henkin is the author of the novels Matrimony, a New York Times Notable Book, and Swimming Across the Hudson, a Los Angeles Times Notable Book. His third novel, The World Without You, was published in June 2012 by Pantheon and has been named an Editors' Choice Book by The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, in addition to being named the winner of the 2012 Edward Lewis Wallant Award. His short stories have been published widely, cited for distinction in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, and broadcast on NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” Henkin, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and directs the MFA program in Fiction Writing at Brooklyn College.

Set against the backdrop of Independence Day and the Iraq War, The World Without You is a novel about sibling rivalries and marital feuds, about volatile women and silent men, and, ultimately, about the true meaning of family.

The World Without You focuses on the Frankel family, as the clan is descending upon their beloved summer home in the Berkshires. The family has gathered to memorialize Leo, the youngest of the four siblings, an intrepid journalist and adventurer who was killed a year ago on assignment in Iraq. The parents, Marilyn and David, are adrift in grief and their 40-year marriage is falling apart. Clarissa, the eldest sibling and a former cello prodigy, has settled into an ambivalent domesticity and is struggling at age 39 to become pregnant. Lily, a fiery-tempered lawyer and the family contrarian, is angry at everyone. And Noelle, whose teenage years were shadowed by promiscuity and school expulsions, has moved to Jerusalem and become a born-again Orthodox Jew. The last person to see Leo alive, Noelle has flown back for the memorial with her husband and four children, but she feels entirely out of place. And Thisbe—Leo’s widow and mother of their three-year-old son—has come from California bearing her own secret.

Reviewers have unanimously praised the novel and Henkin’s writing as “insightful [and] poignant” (New York Times Book Review); “Heart-searing, eye-tearing, and soul-touching,” (Huffington Post); and “Blazingly alive. . . Gorgeously written, and as beautifully detailed as a tapestry, Henkin delicately probes what these family members really mean to one another. . . . [C]ompassionate, intelligent, and shining” (The Boston Globe). Commentary Magazine writes “few American novelists, living or dead, have ever been as good as Henkin at drawing people.”

As a Wallant Award winner, Henkin joins a distinguished list of past award recipients, including Cynthia Ozick, Curt Leviant, Chaim Potok, Myla Goldberg, Dara Horn, Nicole Krauss, and Julie Orringer as well as last year’s award winner, Edith Pearlman.

Established 50 years ago in 1963 by Dr. and Mrs. Irving Waltman of West Hartford to honor the memory of the late Edward Lewis Wallant, author of The Pawnbroker and other works of fiction, the Wallant Award is one of the oldest and most prestigious Jewish literary awards in the United States. It is presented to an American Jewish writer, preferably unrecognized, whose published work of fiction is deemed to have significance for the American Jew. The Wallant Award Anthology, The New Diaspora: The Changing Face of American Jewish Fiction, to be published by Wayne State University Press, brings together under one cover a representative group of those writers whose work has either won or been considered for the award. In recognition of the trajectory and development of American Jewish writing in the 50 years since the award was established, the volume reflects the breadth and ongoing vitality of the fiction written by and about Jews in America.

For more information, contact Susan Gottlieb at the Greenberg Center, at 860.768.4964 or mgcjs@hartford.edu. For more information on the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, visit www.hartford.edu/greenberg/wallant.asp.

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