Anjali Sachdeva • The Chautauqua Prize Award
As author of the winning book, Sachdeva receives $7,500 and all travel and expenses for a summer residency at Chautauqua from Aug. 12 to 16, 2019. A public reading will take place at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, in the Hall of Philosophy on the Institution’s grounds.
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 Bazaar, Entertainment Weekly, Fast Company, The Christian Science Monitor, Bustle, Shondaland,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.
“All the Names They Used for God fuses science, myth, and imagination into a dark and gorgeous series of questions about our current predicaments. Sachdeva is a fascinating storyteller, willing to push her inventiveness as far as it will go, and I cannot wait to see what she writes next.”
—Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See
“What an outstanding short story collection. I knew nothing about this book going in and was thrilled by each story. There is so much range here, and there is a nice fabulist edge to nearly all the stories. The writer wields so much confidence and control in her prose and my goodness, what imagination, what passion there is in this work. From one story to the next I felt like the writer knows everything about everything. One of the best collections I’ve ever read. Every single story is a stand out.”
—Roxane Gay, author of Hunger and Difficult Women
“The strange and wonderful stories that make up Sachdeva’s debut begin on this side of reality and slip to the other—often so gracefully, and with such a precise rendering of the fantastical, that we become inadvertent believers … delightfully unexpected … The brilliance of these stories — beyond the cool, precise artistry of their prose — is their embrace of both the known and the unknown, in a combination that feels truly original.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Every once in a while you read a book with such power, craft, and originality that you know instantly that a new and important voice has arrived on the scene. This is that book.”
—Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club
“Each of these stories is a perfect diorama: scrupulously assembled, complex, unsettling. Completing one is like having lived an entire life, and then being born, breathless, into another.”
—Carmen Maria Machado, author of National Book Award for Fiction finalist Her Body and Other Parties
(Note: This biography was up-to-date as of the date of the lecture. Biographies are not updated over time.)
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