THE MARIA THOMAS FICTION AWARD is named after the novelist Maria Thomas [Roberta Worrick (Ethiopia 1971-73)] who was the author of a well-reviewed novel, Antonia Saw the Oryx First, and two collections of short stories, Come to Africa and Save Your Marriage: And Other Stories and African Visas: A Novella and Stories, all set in Africa. Roberta lost her life in August, 1989, while working in Ethiopia for a relief agency. She went down in the plane crash that also killed her husband, Thomas Worrick (Ethiopia 1971-73), and Congressman Mickey Leland of Texas.
THE WINNER FOR the Peace Corps Writers 2013 Best Book of Fiction published in 2012 is The Beach at Galle Road: Stories from Sri Lanka by Joanna Luloff (Sri Lanka 1996-98) published by Algonquin Books.
Joanna Luloff grew up in Massachusetts, received her MFA from Emerson College and her PhD from University of Missouri. From 1996 to 1998, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sri Lanka. Her short stories have been published in The Missouri Review, Confrontation, New South, and Memorious. The Beach at Galle Road is her first book.
A review in Publisher’s Weekly read:
The long-term civil war in northern Sri Lanka rages between the Tamils and the Sinhalese in Luloff’s debut collection of interwoven stories. Rather than focus on key belligerents, Luloff trains her eye on those caught in the rough wake of war. Janaki is a young woman who spends her days selling flowers and tending to her garden, children, and ailing mother-in-law. In another narrative thread, Sam, an American Peace Corps volunteer boarding at Janaki’s home, falls for one of his students-the graceful and vibrant Nalanthi. But when Janaki’s sister, Lakshmi, returns home from the conflict-zone following her Tamil husband’s disappearance, rumblings from the north begin to disrupt Janaki and co.’s domestic peace. What begins as a flirtatious courtship between Sam and Nalanthi and a warm welcome home for a long lost sibling quickly devolves as the chaos of war draws Luloff’s characters into turmoil. However, while the plights of Janaki’s household resonate emotionally, an underdeveloped plot-further disjointed by the book’s organization into stories requires readers to fill in where Luloff fails to deliver.
One of the real pleasures of my job is watching the selection committee readers talk about the books they love - faces literally light up, and hands fly about in the air… And that’s exactly what happened as the readers were talking about what they’d read in Joanna Luloff’s debut, The Beach at Galle Road, a collection of linked short stories so elegantly composed… Part of Luloff’s luminous, heart-breaking work was informed by her Peace Corps posting to Sri Lanka… but the rest, well, that’s pure art, and why we can’t wait to read more of her work in the years to come.
All winners receive a certificate from Peace Corps Writers and a cash award to supplement their Readjustment Allowance. To see all previous winners, go to:http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/pc-writers/peace-corps-writers-awards/fiction/