Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Workshop alumni, Nina Siegal (MFA, 2006) and  Kevin González (MFA, 2007) were among the merging writers to win a 2021 Creative Nonfiction Grant.

Portraits of Nina Siegal and Kevin González
Nina Siegal and Kevin González | photos by Stuart Acker Holt and Heidi Wiren Bartlett

Whiting Awards of $40,000 are given annually to writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama, based on accomplishment and promise. They are awarded with the goal of supporting writers early in their careers on “original, ambitious projects that bring writing to the highest possible standard."

Nina Siegal is a regular contributor to The New York Times, writing about art and culture in Europe. Siegal received an MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a BA from Cornell University, as well as many grants and fellowships. She has published three novels and many articles in publications such as Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Artsy, and Artnet. In 2006, she received a Fulbright Fellowship to research her second novel, The Anatomy Lesson (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), in Amsterdam, and stayed.

The Diary Keepers was born out of a New York Times article, “The Lost Diaries of War,” which explored a trove of more than 2,000 diaries collected by the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam. The author has chosen seven diaries from the collection, which she weaves together to tell the story of the war from varying perspectives, like a multi-character novel.

From the grant jury: "Braiding together reflections from seven ordinary, yet utterly fascinating, diary keepers during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, this kaleidoscopic work of history is intensified by the author’s sensitive contextualization. The entries are haunting and intimate; some are burned into the brain, such as a diarist taking a train to eat cherries in the countryside while another train deports Jews to Germany. Siegal transforms the drudgery of archival sifting into an act of grace. Potentially explosive, this book could lead to the Dutch reexamining themselves and Europe reassessing the Dutch. "

Kevin González holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and his stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Narrative, Playboy, Oxford American, Virginia Quarterly Review, and American Short Fiction, as well as in Best American Nonrequired Reading and Best New American Voices. His work has been awarded the Narrative Prize, the Playboy College Fiction Prize, the Michener-Copernicus Award, as well as fellowships from the NEA, the MacDowell Colony, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. He divides his time between San Juan and Pittsburgh, where he teaches at Carnegie Mellon University.

Juracán is a memoir about growing up in Puerto Rico in the 80s and 90s, of immigrating to the United States in search of opportunities not available on the island, and of being caught between languages and cultures.

From the grant jury: "Artful and unique, Juracán is a timely salvo directed at a blind spot in mainstream American consciousness. González’s voice grabs you by the collar, as funny and combative in its critique of imperialism as it is sympathetic and wise in its portraits of the author’s family. Formally experimental but eminently readable, this mashup of memoir and cultural history is a joy and an education, a book that could become a classic. "