Chia-Chia Lin of Texas State wins 2020 Clark Fiction Prize for new novel

SAN MARCOS – Chia-Chia Lin’s novel, “The Unpassing,” has won the 2020 L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize. The prize of $25,000 is one of the largest literary awards in the United States. 

Established at Texas State University in 2016 and administered by the Department of English, the prize is designed to recognize an exceptional, recently-published book-length work of fiction in celebration of the Clarks’ lifelong contributions to, and love for, literature and the arts. 

Lin will be honored during a virtual event later this spring. 

“The Unpassing” is a searing debut novel that explores community, identity, and the myth of the American dream through an immigrant family in Alaska. In Lin’s novel, a Taiwanese immigrant family of six is struggling to make ends meet on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska. The father, hardworking but beaten down, is employed as a plumber and repairman, while the mother, a loving, strong-willed, and unpredictably emotional matriarch, holds the house together. When ten-year-old Gavin contracts meningitis at school, he falls into a deep, nearly fatal coma. He wakes up a week later to learn that his little sister Ruby was infected, too. She did not survive.

With flowing prose that evokes the terrifying beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, Lin explores the fallout after the loss of a child and the way in which a family is forced to grieve in a place that doesn’t yet feel like home. Emotionally raw and subtly suspenseful, “The Unpassing” is a deeply felt family saga that dismisses the American dream for a harsher, but ultimately more profound, reality.

Lin graduated with an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she received the Henfield Prize. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Paris Review,, The New York Times, Zyzzyva, and more. She currently lives in Northern California.

The 2020 Clark Prize shortlist included “Sabrina & Corina” by Kali Fajardo-Anstine and “Where Reasons End” by Yiyun Li. Nominations of works published in 2019 were solicited from 12 prominent writers on the condition of anonymity. The permanent fiction faculty at Texas State narrowed those nominations down to the shortlist, and Téa Obreht, author of “The Tiger’s Wife” and Texas State M.F.A. endowed chair, made the final selection.

L.D. and Laverne Harrell Clark donated their home and other property to Texas State in 2009 to create an endowment to support writers-in-residence. The Clark Literary Endowment funds the annual L.D. and Laverne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize, which is among the most generous fiction prizes in the country.

It also funds a writers-in-residence program that offers one-year residencies to graduates of the Texas State MFA program at the Clarks’ historic home on Main Street in Smithville, 55 miles east of the Texas State campus.

The writers-in-residence program is sponsored by the Department of English and the MFA Program in Creative Writing within the College of Liberal Arts. The endowment also funds numerous scholarships for Texas State MFA students. 

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