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Margaret Lazarus Dean Wins Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

Margaret Space Shuttle

Creative Writing professor Margaret Lazarus Dean’s Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight has been chosen as the newest winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize.

Graywolf will publish the book in early 2015. The Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize is designed to honor and encourage the art of literary nonfiction, and is given to an outstanding manuscript by an emerging author who has published no more than two previous books of nonfiction.

“It’s a marvel to see Margaret Lazarus Dean chart that greatest of American obsessions, the dream of manned spaceflight, from the ‘flashbulb memory’ of the Challenger disaster to the waning days of the last shuttle launches,” said Graywolf Press associate editor Steve Woodward. “Once a place where Mailer and Wolfe and others staked their claim, the subject has become, in Margaret Dean’s hands, an incisive look at how our forays into space, then and now, have served to reflect our national imagination. Leaving Orbit transmutes awe into understanding on this farewell tour of NASA’s shuttle program even as it looks toward what comes beyond the end of the future.”

Robert Polito, outgoing Director of the Graduate Writing Program at the New School in New York and soon-to-be president of the Poetry Foundation in Chicago has high praise for Leaving Orbit: “Something analogous to Bob Dylan’s temporal and spatial freewheelin’ propels Margaret Lazarus Dean’s smart, spirited, and elegiac new book, as she tracks the trajectory of the final three manned space shuttle orbiters of the 21st century. For his spaceflight story, Mailer proved skeptical, if ultimately exuberant, whereas Dean emerges as a poet of a belated, cooler, perhaps more clear-eyed and rueful tone: ‘Sometimes it seems as though Norman Mailer’s generation got to see the beginnings of things and mine has gotten the ends.’”

  “Graywolf was my dream publisher for this project right from the start,” said Margaret Lazarus Dean, “and I feel insanely lucky that Robert Polito and the Graywolf editors felt the same way. Graywolf is known for creative nonfiction that doesn’t shy away from complexity, that is smart and fresh, and that pushes the boundaries of the genre. To be included on this list of prizewinners like Ander Monson, Kevin Young, and Eula Biss is a fantasy come true.”

Professor Dean is also the author of The Time It Takes to Fall (Simon & Schuster, 2007), a novel about the space shuttle Challenger disaster.  Her work has appeared in StoryQuarterlyFiveChaptersMichigan Quarterly Review, and the Huffington Post, and she is a recipient of an NEA fellowship and a Hopwood Award for the novel.

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