Novel written by IU alum finalist for PEN/Faulkner Award

Indiana University alumnus Laird Hunt’s book, “Kind One,” was one of five finalists for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction.

Finalists were selected by judges who considered more than 340 novels and short- story collections by American authors published in the U.S. during the 2012 calendar year. Submissions were made by publishing houses, including small and academic presses.

Laird Hunt

IU alumnus and author Laird Hunt.

Though Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s book, “Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club” is the 2013 winner, all five authors whose books were selected as finalists were honored at an awards ceremony earlier this month at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

Hunt called his years at Indiana University “terribly important to me as a writer, thinker and person,” and said he “wouldn’t trade the education I got there for any other.”

He credited former IU professor Richard Blackett, who now teaches at Vanderbilt University, for helping plant the seeds for “Kind One” during a seminar he took at IU on the history of the Caribbean, the slave trade in the region and the Haitian Revolution.

“My IU experience was equally rich in the French department — my novels are regularly translated into French and published by Actes Sud in Paris/Arles, and I translate from the French — where the late Michael Berkvam was an important mentor, and in the history department,” Hunt told Art at IU via email. “I draw on what I learned in my history seminars in other work I have written, not just ‘Kind One.’ For example, one of my current novels in progress called ‘Neverhome’ is told from the perspective of a woman who disguises herself as a man and goes to fight for the Union in the Civil War.”

“Kind One” tells the story of 14-year-old Ginny Lancaster, who moves from her Indiana home to Kentucky after marrying her mother’s second cousin. There, instead of the mansion she expected, she finds herself occupying a rough cabin tended by two young slaves, Cleome and Zinnia. The book recently won a 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Award, which recognizes books that have made important contributions to the understanding of racism and appreciation for cultural diversity.

Hunt is currently on faculty in the University of Denver’s Creative Writing Program, where he edits the Denver Quarterly. He and his wife, the poet Eleni Sikelianos, live in Boulder, Colo., with their daughter. Hunt received a Bachelor of Arts from Indiana University in 1990, majoring in French and history.

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