Sherman Alexie has won the PEN/Faulkner Award for his book War Dances. I reviewed War Dances when it was published last year, and liked it a lot:

But if Alexie intended for War Dances to be a mixtape—and all of Alexie's statements at the reading point to this being his intention from the beginning—this raises another question. Nobody makes a mixtape for themselves; mixtapes are always compiled (and compiled with real effort, as Alexie explains in "Ode to Mix Tapes": "It sometimes took days/To play, choose, pause,/Ponder, record, replay, erase/And replace... It was blue-collar work") with a recipient, a target, in mind. And he never explicitly stated whom this mixtape is for.

I profiled Alexie two years ago for our Genius Awards issue, and he is, of course, a prolific Stranger contributor in his own right. PEN/Faulkner winners make $15,000, and all the runners-up (including Colson Whitehead's great Sag Harbor, which I reviewed here) get $5,000, which is the exact amount of money Alexie won for a Genius Award. Start your conspiracy theories now, folks.

The full press release, including more information about what the award is all about, is after the jump.


Washington, DC— Sherman Alexie’s War Dances (Grove Press) has been selected as the winner of the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The announcement was made today by the directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, Susan Richards Shreve and Robert Stone, Co-Chairmen.

The judges—Rilla Askew, Kyoko Mori, and Al Young—considered close to 350 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the US during the 2009 calendar year. Submissions came from over 90 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. There is no fee for a publisher to submit a book.

The honored book, War Dances, is a collection of structurally inventive pieces on the themes of love, betrayal, familial relationships, race, and class. The stories are interspersed with poems which refract their themes or topics. About this collection judge Al Young says, “War Dances taps every vein and nerve, every tissue, every issue that quickens the current blood-pulse: parenthood, divorce, broken links, sex, gender and racial conflict, substance abuse, medical neglect, 9/11, Official Narrative vs. What Really Happened, settler religion vs. native spirituality; marketing, shopping, and war, war, war. All the heartbreaking ways we don’t live now—this is the caring, eye-opening beauty of this rollicking, bittersweet gem of a book.”

Winner of a 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and additional honors including, most recently, the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award, Sherman Alexie is the author of four novels, three prior short story collections, numerous books of poetry, documentaries, and films. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

The PEN/Faulkner Award is America’s largest peer juried prize for fiction in the United States. As winner, Alexie receives $15,000. Each of the four finalists—Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna (Harper); Lorraine M. López for Homicide Survivors Picnic And Other Stories (BkMk Press); Lorrie Moore for A Gate at The Stairs (Knopf); and Colson Whitehead for Sag Harbor (Doubleday) —receives $5,000.

Support The Stranger

All five authors will be honored during the 30th anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library, located at 201 East Capitol Street, SE, on Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $100, and can be purchased by phoning the Folger Box Office at (202) 544-7077, or online at

The PEN/Faulkner Award was first given in 1981. Past winners include Joseph O’Neill (last year’s winner), E.L. Doctorow, Ann Patchett, Philip Roth, John Updike, and John Edgar Wideman, among others. A full list of winners is at

About PEN/Faulkner
Celebrating the 30th year of this Award, The PEN/Faulkner Foundation is committed to building audiences for exceptional literature and bringing writers together with their readers. This mission is accomplished through a reading series at Folger Shakespeare Library by distinguished writers who have won the respect of readers and writers alike; the PEN/Faulkner Award, the largest peer-juried award for fiction in the United States; the PEN/Malamud Award, honoring excellence in the short story; and the Writers in Schools program, which brings nationally and internationally-acclaimed authors to public high school classrooms in Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Kansas City.