Above Us the Milky Way by Fowzia Karimi (Deep Vellum)

Fowzia Karimi was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. She immigrated to the US in 1980, after the Soviet invasion of the country. Karimi has a background in Studio Art and Biology. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College, California. Her work explores the correspondence on the page between the written and the visual arts. Her illustrated debut novel Above Us the Milky Way was published by Deep Vellum in April, 2020. She is a recipient of The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and has illustrated The Brick House by Micheline Aharonian Marcom and Vagrants and Uncommon Visitors by A. Kendra Green. She lives in Texas.

Our final judge, novelist Chaitali Sen, said this:

“I thought this was a breathtaking and ground-breaking work of art, an abecedarian illustrated novel that tells the story of five sisters fleeing war-torn Afghanistan with their parents and settling in a new land. Dreamlike in the way that memory often is, it captures the pain of war and displacement and the resilience that follows.”

The Balcones Fiction Prize finalists (in alphabetical order) are:

Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump (Algonquin Books)

Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang (Ecoo)

 Thin Girls by Diana Clarke (Harper Perennial)

Little Gods by Meng Jin (HarperCollins)

The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-Eun (Blackstone Publishing)

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (West Virginia University Press)

This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. Staples (Counterpoint Press)

A House is a Body by Shruti Swamy (Algonquin Books)

Winner of the Balcones Poetry Prize

Little Big Bully by Heid E. Erdrich (Penguin)

Heid E. Erdrich is the author of seven collections of poetry. Her writing has won fellowships and awards from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Foundation, the Loft Literary Center, and First People’s Fund, and she has twice won a Minnesota Book Award for poetry. She was also the editor of the 2018 anthology New Poets of Native Nations, which was the recipient of an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and a Midwest Booksellers Choice Award. Erdrich works as a visual arts curator and collaborator, and as an educator. She teaches in the low-residency MFA creative writing program of Augsburg University and is the 2019 distinguished visiting professor in the liberal arts at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain. She lives in Minneapolis.

The winner and finalists were selected by judge ire’ne lara silva.

The Balcones Poetry Prize finalists (in alphabetical order) are:

Indigo by Ellen Bass (Copper Canyon Press)

Ways We Vanish by Todd Dillard (Okay Donkey Press)