Author Aleksandar Hemon has been awarded the 2020 John Dos Passos Prize for Literature.
The prize, named for the acclaimed author of the U.S.A. Trilogy, “honors an underappreciated writer whose work offers incisive, original commentary on American themes, experiments with form and encompasses a range of human experiences,” according to a news release from Longwood University in Virginia, donor of the prize.
“Hemon is known for his short stories and novels that explore issues of exile, identity and home through characters drawn from his own experience with displacement,” said the release. “His works often deal with the Yugoslav Wars, his native Bosnia or Chicago, which became his adopted hometown when war broke out in his home country and he was granted status as a political refugee in the United States.”
Hemon’s most recent book, the 2019 memoir My Parents: An Introduction/This Does Not Belong to You, received a starred Kirkus review, as have three of his novels: Love and Obstacles, The Lazarus Project, and Nowhere Man. “Think of the gifted Hemon as a kinder and gentler—and infinitely funnier—Jerzy Kosinski,” said our reviewer of the latter book. The Lazarus Project was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; Nowhere Man was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Rabih Alameddine, the 2019 winner of the Dos Passos Prize and a juror for this year’s prize, called Hemon a master stylist of exquisite prose. “What he does with language is delightful and mind-boggling,” Alameddine said.
Recipients of the Dos Passos Prize receive $2,000 and an engraved bronze medal. This years’ shortlist included Alexander Chee, Gish Jen, Dana Johnson, Hari Kunzru, and Valeria Luiselli.
Marion Winik is a regular Kirkus reviewer and author of The Big Book of the Dead.