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PhD Student’s Book Finalist for National Jewish Book Award

Line Study of a Motel ClerkAllison Pitinii Davis’s book of poetry, Line Study of a Motel Clerk, is a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, Berru Award for Poetry.

“I’m extremely grateful for the recognition from the Jewish Book Council,” says Davis, a first-year PhD student in the creative writing program. “Being a finalist emphasizes that the regional concerns of a book about my family’s trucking motel in Northeast Ohio have national significance.”

In her book, Davis examines Youngstown, Ohio, across four generations – from steel boom-to-bust – a timeframe that begins with a wave of immigration and ends in economic depression. “Rust Belt writers and small, independent presses are producing the work of our times,” Davis says. “I hope national awards continue to recognize it.”

Davis credits the generous support of faculty in the Department of English for her success and opportunities to present her book at a variety of festivals and readings.

“The department is an acclaimed center of humanities scholarship and creative writing,” Davis says. “From its faculty, especially poets Marilyn Kallet, Joy Harjo, and Art Smith, to Grist and my wildly talented classmates, it is an ideal place to write.”

Marilyn Kallet, the Nancy Moore Goslee Professor of English, is learning a lot from her weekly dialogues about modern Jewish poetry with Davis.

“Allison is a creative writing doctoral student, sure, but she could be teaching poetry and modern Jewish literature,” Kallet says. “Her book is an engaging volume of poems from working class Jewish life in Appalachia. Each poem is a song. Each lyric tells part of a story we don’t usually hear. Allison’s work is accessible and breaks stereotypes. We are lucky to have her in our community at UT.”

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