Recorded on November 8, 2009.
This annual prize, awarded separately for fiction and nonfiction, recognizes recently published works “embodying the spirit of the nation’s heartland.” The prizes are part of the Chicago Tribune’s ongoing dedication to reading, writing, and ideas.
Fiction: Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
A rich, wonderfully alive novel from one of our most admired and best-loved writers, Lark and Termite is Jayne Anne Phillips’s first book in nine years. Set during the 1950s in West Virginia and Korea, it is a story of a brother and sister, and of the power of loss and love, the echoing ramifications of war, family secrets, dreams and ghosts, and the unseen, almost magical bonds that unite and sustain us. Phillips is the author of three other novels, MotherKind, Shelter, and Machine Dreams, and two collections of widely anthologized stories, Fast Lanes and Black Tickets.
Nonfiction: Methland by Nick Reding
Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the small towns of America’s heartland. In Methland, journalist Nick Reding introduces us to Oelwein, Iowa, population 6,126. Like thousands of other rural communities, Oelwein has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry and a depressed local economy. The product of four years of reporting, Methland paints a portrait of not just one town, but of small town America on the brink, ultimately offering the very thing that meth took from Oelwein: hope. Nick Reding is the author of The Last Cowboys at the End of the World, and his writing has appeared in Outside, Food and Wine, and Harper’s Bazaar.