Boston native Lydia Peelle has received a $50,000 literary award that honors accomplishment and promise in emerging writers. She was among 10 recipients of the annual Whiting Writers’ Awards. Peelle, born in Boston and raised in North Andover, earned an MFA at the University of Virginia and lives in Nashville.
The South and rural living has a large presence in her debut work of fiction, “Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing” (Harper Perennial), published last year. In the first story, “Mule Killers,” the narrator’s grandfather sells his mules for dog meat and replaces them with tractors. Hunting, a devotion to horses, and love lost and found are central concerns of other stories in the collection.
In its announcement, the Whiting selection committee said it admired Peelle’s “beautiful prose, gorgeous sentences, flawless ear,” adding, “These stories — while working perfectly as short stories — suggest the kind of epic vision usually found in novels.” Speaking of epic vision and novels, Jonathan Franzen is among the past recipients who have gone on to achieve wide acclaim.
The magazine isn’t well-known beyond the world of children’s librarians, teachers, and publishers but its beginnings were very much rooted in the everyday. Founded in 1924 to “blow the horn for fine [children’s] books,” the magazine grew out of reading recommendations made by the owner of Boston’s Bookshop for Boys and Girls. The shop closed in 1936, but the magazine is still going strong.
Sprinkled throughout “A Family of Readers” are essays by authors about the power of pivotal childhood encounters. Jon Scieszka reminisces about his moment of truth when Sister Margaret Ann singled him out in fifth grade. Each of his books, he writes, “is in some way another piece of the answer to the question, ‘What’s so funny, Mr. Scieszka?’ ”
■ “Field of Screams: Haunted Tales from the Baseball Diamond, the Locker Room, and Beyond” by Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon (Lyons)
■ “Shelter: Where Harvard Meets the Homeless” by Scott Seider (Continuum)
Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.