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Ohio University English instructor wins fiction prize

ATHENS, Ohio (Aug. 16, 2006) -- Ohio University English instructor Kevin Haworth has won the seventh annual Samuel Goldberg & Sons Foundation Prize for Jewish Fiction by an Emerging Writer for his debut novel "The Discontinuity of Small Things" (Quality Words in Print). 

Kevin HaworthThe Goldberg Prize, which includes a $2,500 prize and a residency at Ledig House International Writers' Colony, is given annually to an American fiction writer of exceptional talent and promise for a first or second book. "Over the past seven years, the Samuel Goldberg & Sons Prize has honored seven very different writers, all of whom inhabit particular regions of the modern literary landscape," said writer Emily Stone, founding chair of the Goldberg Prize and an NFJC board member since 1998. "As writers like Kevin Haworth continue to cultivate the American Jewish voice, we look forward to the further evolution both of contemporary fiction and of American Jewish creativity." 

Set in Copenhagen, Denmark, the novel charts the course of the 1943 German occupation as daily annoyances like propaganda pamphlets give way to the much darker vision of kidnappings, deportations and impending extermination. Haworth expertly traces these events through the lives of four very different characters, linking each to a faction of the Copenhagen resistance. In awarding this novel, the judges - writers Peter Orner, Joan Leegant and Tony Eprile - cited its complex, three-dimensional characters and the beauty of its language; and also the fresh and startling way in which its author depicted the oft-treated subject of the holocaust.

"The Goldberg Prize has honored many terrific writers," Haworth said. "I'm delighted to be in their company." He noted that "The Discontinuity of Small Things" was inspired by a photo exhibit depicting scenes from the Danish resistance during World War II, which he stumbled across when he was an MFA student. 

"Most of the photos - taken 50 years after the fact - showed empty spaces: a stretch of beach where Jews had stood; the pavement outside a hospital where a man had fallen from a window. I became obsessed with filling in those spaces - empty holes into which great history had once been poured. At the time I had never been to Denmark and knew little about this small, marginalized holocaust story," Haworth said.

"When I began to research and write, first from books and photographs, then in Denmark itself, I found the kind of contradictions that any writer would recognize as the stuff of fiction: an occupation that involved almost no violence, and which the Germans described as a 'great understanding' between themselves and the Danish government; Jews who fled and then returned to their homes as if little had transpired; a war waged mostly by pamphlet," he said.

Born in 1971, Haworth grew up in the Catskills region of upstate New York and spent a significant amount of time studying and working in Israel after college. He earned an MFA in fiction writing from Arizona State University and has been awarded the David Dornstein Prize for Young Jewish Writers and the Permafrost Fiction Prize. He has taught English at Ohio University since 2002. 

Previous Goldberg Prize winners include Nathan Englander ("For the Relief of Unbearable Urges"), Simone Zelitch ("Louisa"), Peter Orner ("The Esther Stories"), Gary Shteyngart ("The Russian Debutante's Handbook"), Lara Vapnyar ("There Are Jews in My House") and Nancy Reisman ("The First Desire").

This year's finalists were Nicole Krauss for "The History of Love," Edie Meidav for "Crawl Space," and Edward Schwartzchild for "Responsible Men."

The National Foundation for Jewish Culture invests in creative individuals and ideas in order to nurture a vibrant and enduring American Jewish identity, culture and community.

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Media Contact: Visiting Instructor of English Kevin Haworth, (740) 593-2771 or haworth@ohio.edu

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