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University of Iowa News Release


June 5, 2009

Robinson wins Orange Prize for 'Home'

University of Iowa Writers' Workshop faculty member Marilynne Robinson has been awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction for her third novel, "Home," the companion to her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "Gilead."

[Note: A new episode of "Conversations from the Iowa Writers' Workshop" featuring Robinson will air several times in June on the Big 10 Network. The program, produced by the UI Center for Media Production, airs at 9:30 p.m. June 16, noon June 18 and 11:30 a.m. June 19, all Central Daylight Time.]

Robinson received the award during a ceremony at London's Royal Festival Hall Wednesday.

Robinson beat five other female fiction writers from around the world for the Orange honor, which included a $48,000 cash prize. Fi Glover, chair of judges, described "Home" as a "kind, wise, enriching novel" that was "exquisitely crafted." Added Glover, "We were unanimously agreed -- it is a profound work of art."

"Home" portrays other characters in the Iowa town of Gilead. Bob Thompson wrote in the Washington Post, "Set in precisely the same time and locale as 'Gilead,' it revisits characters the author found herself unwilling to give up. Yet it is not a sequel. With different people's stories moved to center stage, 'Home' manages to be both intertwined with its predecessor and a work that stands alone."

A starred review in Publishers Weekly called "Home" "an elegant variation on the parable of the prodigal son's return."

"In giving an ancient drama of grace and perdition such a strong domestic setup, Robinson stakes a fierce claim to a divine recognition behind the rituals of home," the review stated.

In addition to winning the Pulitzer in 2005, "Gilead" won the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2005 Ambassador Book Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Her first novel, "Housekeeping," was a Pulitzer finalist two decades ago, when it won the PEN/Hemingway Award. In the intervening years she wrote two nonfiction books, "Mother Country" and "The Death of Adam."

In 1998, Robinson was selected by the American Academy of Arts and Letters to receive a Strauss Living, a five-year stipend totaling a quarter of a million dollars that was established to enable writers to focus entirely on their work without requiring other employment. The UI responded in a manner that is astonishing by the standards of most institutions: she was granted a five-year leave of absence.

But Robinson soon found that teaching had become an essential part of her life. After only 18 months on leave, she turned down the remainder of the stipend to return to the workshop.

The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. More information about the program is available at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen J. Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,