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Release: Jan. 8, 2003

(NOTE TO EDITORS: The press contact at the American Academy of Arts and Letters is Betsey Feeley, 212-368-5900.)

UI Writers’ Workshop Alumna Gish Jen Wins Lucrative Writing Honor

Gish Jen, an alumna of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, has been honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with a $250,000 Strauss Living, the most lucrative literary honor in the United States. The Strauss Livings provide $50,000 per year for five years, to provide writers the freedom to devote their time and energy exclusively to writing.

Two writers have been selected for the award every five years since 1983, and half the honorees have had connections with the Writers’ Workshop -- faculty member Marilynne Robinson was honored in 1998 and former workshop students Raymond Carver, John Casey and Joy Williams have also received Strauss Livings.

Jen is the author of the novels “Typical American,” which was a finalist for the National Book Award” and “Mona in the Promised Land,” as well as the short-story collection “Who’s Irish?” Her previous honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Fellowship. She has been a visiting faculty member at the Writers’ Workshop, and she was most recently a guest lecturer at Harvard University.

The awards were the result of a bequest by Harold and Mildred Strauss. Harold Strauss was, for many years, the editor-in-chief of the publishing firm Alfred A. Knopf. The other award in this round of the Strauss Livings went to novelist Claire Messud, author of “The Last Life,” “When the World Was Steady” and “The Hunters: Two Short Novels.”

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was chartered by Congress in 1898 to “foster, assist and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts.” Each year the academy award nearly $1 million to artists, architects, writers and composers.

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