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University of Iowa News Release

May 29, 2003

Photo: Clark Blaise, emeritus director of the UI International Writing Program (IWP) and a former faculty member of the Writers' Workshop.

American Academy Of Arts And Letters Honors UI Writers

Three alumni of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop -- Clark Blaise, Thom Jones and Gish Jen -- were honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters at the organization's annual awards ceremony May 21 in New York City.

Blaise, emeritus director of the UI International Writing Program (IWP) and a former faculty member of the Writers' Workshop, was one of eight writers who won Academy Awards in Literature.

Jones, who is also a former faculty member of the Writers' Workshop, received the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award in Literature, which is awarded to "single out writers for the quality of their prose style."

The award of the $250,000 Harold and Mildred Strauss Livings in Literature to Gish Jen was announced earlier but included in the ceremony.

Blaise, who was director of the IWP 1990-98, is the author of numerous books, including the short-story collections "A North American Education," "Tribal Justice," "Resident Alien," "Pittsburgh Stories," "Southern Stories" and "Man and His World," and the novel "If I Were Me."

"Time Lord: Sir Sanford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time" won Canada's Pearson Prize, and "I Had a Father," a post-modern autobiography written primarily during his around-the-world travels as director of the IWP, was non-fiction book of the year in Canada's Authors Awards.

Blaise has also received the Books in Canada Award and the President's Medal for Best Story in Canada. He is married to the novelist Bharati Mukerjee, whom he met in Iowa City when they were both students in the Writers' Workshop, and they have written several works together, notably the acclaimed travel memoir "Days and Nights in Calcutta."

He is now president of the Society for the Study of the Short Story, and he teaches at Southampton College of Long Island University in New York.

Thom Jones' "Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine: Stories" was a 1999 New York Times "Notable Book of the Year."

Jones' previous short-story collections were "The Pugilist at Rest," a nominee for the National Book Award, and "Cold Snap" -- books that received almost unprecedented acclaim for a writer's debut.

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.

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.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,