Dalia Sofer for her novel The Septembers of Shiraz (Ecco)

The PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work—a novel or collection of short stories published in 2007—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise. The winner receives a cash award of $35,000, a stipend intended to permit a significant degree of leisure in which to pursue a second work of literary fiction. The Robert Bingham Fellow is also encouraged to become an active participant in the PEN community and its programs.

2008 Judges

David Leavitt, Elizabeth Strout, Lily Tuck

From the Judges’ Citation

“In 1981, ‘on a warm autumn day in Tehran,’ Isaac Amin, a Jewish jeweler, is arrested and, thus, his and his family’s lives are changed forever.  While he is imprisoned and tortured, his wife’s pampered world collapses, his daughter takes unaccustomed risks, and, in New York, his son attempts to create another life for himself. In compelling and unadorned prose Dalia Sofer has written a powerful novel that examines the ordeal of a single family in Iran after the fall of the Shah and the injustices and cruelties that they must endure at the hand of the new regime. These injustices along with a stolen ring, a lost teapot, and daily domestic disappointments and betrayals are vividly juxtaposed and convincingly render a moving portrait of both a country in transition and a family in anguish. Yet, in the end, it is particularly and precisely the compassionate description of this family who manages to show—each member in his or her modest way—the indomitable will to survive and the courage to seek a new and better life, reaffirming our trust in the resiliency of the human spirit, that makes The Septembers of Shiraz such a remarkable achievement.”


Alex Mindt for Male of the Species (Delphinium Books)

Joshua Ferris for Then We Came to the End (Little, Brown and Company)