A New Voice in American Fiction

Professor Courtney Brkic wins Whiting Writers' Award

From the killing fields of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, Visiting Assistant Professor of English Courtney Brkic has witnessed the effects of war. For her talent in transforming these experiences into fiction, Brkic has been awarded one of ten Whiting Writers' Awards for 2003. The prestigious award comes with a cash prize of $35,000.

The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, which established the program, has presented the Whiting Awards to ten emerging writers annually since 1985 to recognize exceptional talent and promise. Winners are chosen by a selection committee of noted editors, scholars, and writers, who consider nominations from around the country.

"This award is no surprise to Courtney's colleagues in the English department," said department chair and Associate Professor of English Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky. "It was obvious to us when we hired her last year that Courtney is an important new voice in American fiction. Her stories are spare and haunting, with a deeply felt understanding of the humanity of characters caught up in the most inhuman of events."

"I've written for as long as I can remember," said Brkic. "Both my parents are writers, and we are a fairly book-mad family. It happened naturally--there was no decision or epiphany to be a writer. I'd just done it all along."

A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Brkic (pronounced BUR-kich) studied and worked overseas for six years in the 1990s. She returned to the former Yugoslavia, from which her father had fled years before, to work as a forensic archaeologist in Bosnia-Herzegovina and as a translator in Croatia. She also worked for the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Zagreb to research women in Croatia's war-affected population.

"Her fiction draws directly on these experiences, but it doesn't simply force the reader to look at the brutality of war, as many war novels do," said Lobanov-Rostovsky. "Her stories make us imagine what it is to live surrounded by horror and still be human."

Brkic returned to the United States in 1999 to obtain a master of fine arts degree from New York University. Her work has appeared in a number of journals, including Zoetrope, The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Indiana Review, Third Coast, The Atlanta Review, The South Carolina Review, and Folio. Stillness and Other Stories, Brkic's first book, was published earlier this year by Farrar Straus and Giroux. The Stone Fields, a work of nonfiction, will be published next year.

Brkic attended the Whiting Awards ceremony on Thursday, October 30, at the New York Public Library in New York City, where Robert Belknap, Whiting Foundation president, and Peter Pennoyer, a foundation trustee, announced the 2003 winners. The evening's keynote speaker was playwright John Guare.

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