Denison Associate Professor of English Margot Singer recently has been announced as the honoree of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for her 2017 novel “Underground Fugue,” published by Melville House. The Wallant Award, one of the oldest continuous awards to recognize American Jewish fiction, is presented annually to “an American writer whose published creative work of fiction is considered to have significance for the American Jew.”
“Over the years, I’ve helped many dozens of young writers with their novels, but as a teacher you don’t fully appreciate the challenges—the ambiguity, the frustration, the setbacks—until you are in the thick of it yourself,” said Singer. “This project was a long time in the making, and it’s wonderful to receive this recognition and to see that others understand what I was trying to achieve.”
“Underground Fugue” has been touted by readers and reviewers alike. The novel is set in 2005, against the background of the London Tube bombings. Four major characters—a dying mother and the daughter who looks after her, an Iranian doctor and son who live next door—provide the grist for the complicated relationships and situations that propel the reader forward.
“We have been following Margot’s work since the publication of her collection of short stories, ‘The Pale of the Settlement.’ We were encouraged to see her take the leap to becoming the novelist who brought such intriguing characters to life.” said Avinoam J. Patt, associate director, Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies; Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of Hartford; and a judge for the Wallant Award. “We are delighted to bring recognition to Margot, who is a highly talented writer. We hope this helps bring better awareness of her excellent work to broader audiences.”
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice book, “Underground Fugue” also was one of Elle’s “Most Anticipated Books by Women” of 2017.
Denison President Adam Weinberg commented, “Margot is undeniably talented as a writer. “Underground Fugue” is one in a long list of impressive professional accomplishments for her. I am proud she is a Denison faculty member and I am inspired by her work.”
Provost Kim Coplin added, “Margot is an accomplished writer and an inspiring teacher. Her students gain insight from someone who has experience and success. Writers take creative risks, listen empathetically and develop persistence and resilience as they work on what often can be long-term projects. We are grateful that, in her role as director of the Lisska Center for Scholarly Engagement, Margot shares her intelligence and aptitude with the entire campus.”
In addition to “Underground Fugue,” Singer’s award-winning collection of short stories, “The Pale of the Settlement,” composed of interconnected family stories, received the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She also has been recognized with the Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction and the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers. Her work has been featured on NPR and in the Kenyon Review, the Gettysburg Review, AGNI, and Conjunctions, among other publications. Singer’s short story “Deir Yassin” has been included in an anthology of past award winners and finalists that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wallant award, titled “The New Diaspora: The Changing Landscape of American Jewish Fiction.”
Singer will receive the award at the Greenberg Center, University of Hartford on Wednesday, May 2, 2018. The Wallant award was established shortly after the untimely death in December 1962 of Edward Lewis Wallant, gifted author of “The Human Season” and “The Pawnbroker,” by Dr. and Mrs. Irving Waltman of West Hartford. A panel of three critics serves as judges, and they seek out a writer whose fiction bears a kinship to the work of Wallant, and preferably an author who is younger and deserving of greater recognition. Among those who have received the award in past years are: Chaim Potok, Cynthia Ozick, Curt Leviant, Thane Rosenbaum, Myla Goldberg, Jonathan Rosen, Dara Horn, and Nicole Krauss.