"People of the Books" Blog

2018 Winners of Jewish Fiction Award

The Association of Jewish Libraries Announces 2018 Winners of Jewish Fiction Award

Rachel Kadish is the inaugural winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award for her novel The Weight of Ink, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize as well as support to attend the 53rd Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries in Boston, MA, June 18-20, 2018. Two honor books were also recognized: Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan, published by Tin House Books, and A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert, published by Pantheon Books, part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. The Committee received over 50 works of fiction with significant Jewish thematic content, written in English and available in the United States in 2017, and thanks all those who submitted entries for consideration. The wide array of books published this year is a testament to the vibrant state of contemporary Jewish fiction.

“Rachel Kadish has crafted an extraordinary cast of characters who speak to each other within and across the divides of centuries as well as those of age, religion, and class and come vividly to life under her empathic touch,” notes Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, Chairperson of the Award Committee. “This is a book that honors learning, libraries, archivists and librarians, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Jewish Fiction Award Committee is delighted to present Kadish with the 2018 AJL Jewish Fiction Award.”

Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan gives serious depth to the little-known story of Jewish life in Ireland. Weaving a complex story, Ruth Gilligan uses the specifics of Irish lore and history woven with the Jewish experience to illuminate the stories of a young girl and her family who emigrate from eastern Europe, a suddenly mute boy incarcerated in a home for the mentally disabled, and a woman who considers the implications of converting to Judaism. According to Taub, “Gilligan's expert twists of plot, exploration of historical themes, and her gift of word play and dark humor” impressed the Committee.

Rachel Seiffert's A Boy in Winter works on a small canvas and creates a searing emotional impact. As the Nazis invade a small Ukrainian town, a variety of characters are forced to face the invasion's terrible consequences and quickly make life-altering decisions. Taub comments: “Seiffert writes with spareness, a plain-hewn power that draws the reader on a journey of suspense in a time and place of limited possibility.”

The Association of Jewish Libraries gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dan Wyman Books for underwriting the Award. Submissions for the 2019 AJL Fiction Award are now being accepted. For more information, please visit www.jewishlibraries.org.

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