UC Davis

UCD profs receive writing honors

By From page A3 | March 25, 2014

Two UC Davis professors have won prestigious awards this month for written works in their fields.

Yiyun Li, professor of English, was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with the Benjamin H. Danks Award, given every three years to an exceptional young writer. The prize is $30,000.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by American Academy of Arts and Letters,” Li said. “The award also provides generous financial support, which will give me some space to start the next project.”

Since 2003, the academy has given the award in rotation to a composer of ensemble works, a playwright and a writer.

Li’s latest book, “Kinder Than Solitude,” has been widely reviewed in the media.

Li’s first novel, “The Vagrants,” won a California Book Award gold medal. She has been named by The New Yorker in the past as one of the top 20 fiction writers under age 40 from the United States. She was a 2010 MacArthur Foundation fellow.

Ari Kelman, professor of history and currently associate vice provost of undergraduate education for honors, authored one of two works honored with the prestigious Bancroft Prize, given each year by the trustees of Columbia University for a book in history or diplomacy. 

“I’m thrilled to receive such a prestigious award, particularly in a year in which Ira Katznelson, a giant in the profession, is also being honored,” Kelman said. “I’m very grateful to my colleagues, without whose help I couldn’t have written this book.”

Kelman wrote “A Misplaced Massacre,” a story that grapples with the politics of historical memory and memorializing in Sand Creek, Colo., the site of an 1864 massacre of Cheyennes and Arapahos. According to the award givers, “Kelman deals evenhandedly with the fraught politics of inconclusive and contradictory archival records, the goals of National Park memorialists, the claims of property owners, and Native American efforts to have a historic injustice marked and recalled without perpetrating further violation of the spirits of murdered ancestors.”

He is teaching an honors seminar in Civil War history this quarter.

Winners are judged in terms of the scope, significance, depth of research and richness of interpretation they present in the areas of American history and diplomacy. There were 190 books nominated for the 2014 prize.

Kelman will attend a ceremony next month at Columbia University where the $10,000 award will be presented.

The other book honored was “Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time” by Ira Katznelson. He is a professor at Columbia.

— UC Davis News

Karen Nikos-Rose

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