September 21, 2006-Tamar Yellin, an English fiction writer, has won the 2006 Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction for Kafka in Brontëland and other stories (Toby Press), a collection of short stories. The prize carries a $5,000 award as well as a feature in the spring 2007 edition of Reform Judaism, which has the largest circulation of any Jewish publication in the world.
The judges named Ronna Wineberg's runner-up for her short story collection Second Language, published by New Rivers Press.
The Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction was created in 2003 by Dr. Alexander Mauskop, a Larchmont, NY, neurologist, to encourage promising Jewish fiction writers. To qualify, the novel or short story collection must have been written in English on a Jewish theme and published in the United States or Canada.
Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel serves as honorary chair of the prize committee. The judges were Janet Burstein, Drew University professor and author of Telling the Little Secrets: American Jewish Writing since the 1980s (University of Wisconsin Press); Sanford Pinsker, emeritus Professor of Humanities at Franklin and Marshall College; and, Wendy Zierler, assistant professor of feminist studies and modern Jewish literature at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Kafka in Brontëland and other stories is a collection of thirteen pieces that address the universal themes of identity and displacement, belonging and not belonging, through the lens of contemporary Jewish experience. As is the case with her other writings, including her first novel, The Genizah at the House of Shepher (Toby Press), the stories are informed by Yellin's own experience growing up in the North of England as the daughter of a Polish immigrant and a third generation Jerusalemite.
"Every story in Tamar Yellin's Kafka in Brontëland and other stories closes with the decisive, revelatory resonance that marks the best examples of this literary form," the judges of this year's prize wrote. "But formal sophistication is not the only attraction of this collection. Yellin's stories probe many facets of contemporary Jewish experience--including tales about Jewish characters longing to 'Return to Zion' or taken as children to visit a Holocaust survivor and for the rest of their lives marked by his bitterness (Dr. Stein)."
"Some of the stories recall situations and characters from the fiction of Flannery O'Connor, such as one tale telling of a Jewish mother, who thinks she may finally have entrapped a man into marrying her daughter or another, of an eccentric piano tuner. And one lovely story ("Moonlight") traces the uneven trajectory of one artist's life and work in a way that provokes awareness of the sad discrepancy between what, if we're lucky, we may be able to make, and what we experience."
Kafka in Brontëland was published in February 2006 in the United States and Great Britain and has received excellent reviews in the British press. The Guardian wrote that Yellin's prose "is laconic, subtle and understated, Kafkaesque in its ironies and conceits but immensely kind too. It shapes a world of namesakes and echoes, each story a fragment concerning a fragmented experience, focusing on the unsaid and the unsayable."