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James Hannaham of Brooklyn wins PEN/Faulkner award

James Hannaham, author of "Delicious Foods," teaches creative

James Hannaham, author of "Delicious Foods," teaches creative writing at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Credit: Ian Douglas

Author James Hannaham has won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for his novel “Delicious Foods,” published last year by Little, Brown. Hannaham, who lives in Brooklyn and teaches creative writing at the Pratt Institute, will receive $15,000 and be honored at a ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., on May 14.

“Delicious Foods” is a scathing and satirical story of racism, drug addiction and modern-day slavery. After her husband is lynched, the protagonist, Darlene, finds employment at the Delicious Foods farm in Louisiana, where workers pick watermelon in exchange for unlimited crack cocaine. The novel is narrated by “Scotty,” the seductive voice of crack cocaine itself. In her review for Newsday, Marion Winik praised Hannaham’s “extraordinary writing,” saying, “Fasten your seat belts, readers, because this is one edgy novel, a surreal fable that runs wild through politically charged issues of the African-American past and present.”

The judges considered nearly 500 novels and story collections by American authors published in the U.S. in 2015. The four other finalists are Julie Iromuanya for “Mr. and Mrs. Doctor” (Coffee House Press), Viet Thanh Nguyen for “The Sympathizer” (Grove Atlantic), Elizabeth Tallent for “Mendocino Fire” (HarperCollins) and Luis Alberto Urrea for “The Water Museum” (Little, Brown). They receive $5,000 each.

Past winners of the PEN/Faulkner award include Atticus Lish, Karen Joy Fowler, Deborah Eisenberg, Sherman Alexie, Philip Roth, John Updike and Ann Patchett.

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