Congratulations to 2014 AML Winners Steve Peck and Michael Austin

Steve and Michael

BCC permas put their pants on just like the rest of you–one leg at a time. Except, once their pants are on, they take home top honors from the 2014 Association for Mormon Letters Conference. A hearty congratulations to Steve Peck for mopping the floor with the competition for the 2014 Short Fiction Award and Michael Austin for leaving the contenders for the 2014 Religious Nonfiction Award in the dust (and ashes)! Read on for their citations:

In “Two-Dog Dose,” (Dialogue, Spring 2014) Steven L. Peck explores the meaning of empathy and loyalty through a wrenching moral dilemma. Lorin and Karl have been friends since their days as roommates at BYU. Now, in their old age, Karl is on the brink of losing himself in the fog of dementia and informs his friend that he’s “invoking the pact”—a  pact that will require Lorin to decide if the strength of his word and the power of his  friendship is enough to endure the horror of helping his best friend die. Through beautiful language and obvious affection for landscape, Peck describes a friendship that has endured over decades and despite differences of belief. There is pain here in Peck’s unflinching portrayal of a desperate situation: we feel it; we believe it. And, through a beautifully symbolic and cathartic baptism near the story’s end, we emerge changed from having vicariously lived through it. Steven L. Peck’s “Two-Dog Dose” represents the very best of Mormon storytelling, and the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor it with the 2014 award for short fiction.

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Michael Austin, Re-Reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem, Greg Kofford Books, 2014

For those faithful Mormons with both the desire and the ability to go beyond the LDS Church’s correlated Sunday School curricula and dive deeper into the scriptures, probably no greater sense of disconnect and frustration is experienced with any particular piece of writing in the whole standard works than with the Book of Job. It is, very simply, a difficult work, both in terms of its literary genesis and construction (an ancient poem, placed in the context of an even more ancient folk tale, with numerous interpretive interventions throughout its long history), and in terms of what faithful Mormons (with our legacy of, whatever the 8th Article of Faith may say, reading the Bible both literally and in terms of a supposedly unifying Christian message) are to do with it. It’s no wonder that Elder Bruce R. McConkie, in the course of long sermon which insightfully discussed the various messages of the many different parts of the Bible, dealt with it in a single curt sentence: “The Book of Job is for people who like the Book of Job.”

Thanks to Michael Austin though, the number of faithful Mormons who may be included with those “who like the Book of Job” is likely to increase. Austin is not a Hebrew scholar, but rather a scholar of literature, skilled in the ways in which the stories we tell evolve and become meaningful in our lives. In Re-Reading Job, he makes use of those skills to artfully survey and weave together the best historical, linguistic, and cultural scholarship on the Book of Job, and present it in ways which thoroughly—though never mean-spiritedly—deconstruct the assumptions which have too often limited our church’s correlated approach to this powerful work of literature. But this short and entertainingly written book does not only deconstructs; it also celebrates. Austin is a late convert to what many millions of readers have discovered over the millennia: that the ancient story-teller(s) behind the Book of Job had a thoughtful, challenging, and in many ways inspiring message, one that 21st century Mormons can learn from every bit as much as the Deuteronomist audiences of old did. In a series of compact, constructive chapters, Austin walks us through the theological and literary merits of Job’s frame tale, the various (often very distinct) ideas presented in its long poetic center, the connections those ideas have with other Biblical traditions, the ethical lessons which can be drawn from the story as a whole, and much more. This is, in short, serious but also very readable work of scholarship, which brings readers into an ancient work which so many of them have for so long only skimmed over. For this accomplishment on behalf of so many Mormon readers who will benefit from having their eyes opened to, we award Re-Reading Job the Association for Mormon Letters Religious Non-Fiction Award for 2015.

Comments

  1. Fantastic! Really proud of you both. I haven’t read Steve’s piece yet, unfortunately. But Mike’s Re-reading Job enriched my understanding profoundly, and I am truly glad to hear that he won based on that content.

  2. Karen H. says:

    Congrats! Such well-deserved honors for both of you.

  3. Congratulations! So proud to share the blog with you! Lets not forget BCC emerita Margaret Young winning the Smith-Pettit Award (lifetime achievement).

  4. Congrats! This pleases me all around. I couldn’t help wishing President Eyring had read Michael’s book during his Women’s session talk. I died inside a little, I think, and am still trying to figure out what it is about Job’s daughters being exceptionally beautiful that made him get so emotional. Thanks for writing things that bless the rest of us in so many ways friends!

  5. Please come and read the full citations for the 18 winners.
    http://associationmormonletters.org/blog/2015/03/aml-awards-for-2014/#more-8734

    Here is the simple list:
    2014 Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters:
    Margaret Blair Young
    AML Honorary Lifetime Membership: Karen Rosenbaum and Lance Larsen
    Comics: Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood for iPlates: Volume II
    Creative Non-Fiction: Eric Freeze for Hemingway on a Bike
    Criticism: Orson Scott Card, et al for Ender’s World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender’s Game
    Drama: Melissa Leilani Larson for Pride and Prejudice
    Film: Saints and Soldiers: The Void, Ryan Little, director.
    Middle Grade Novel: Julie Berry for The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
    Middle Grade Novel Honorable Mention: Ann Dee Ellis for The End or Something Like That
    Novel: Tim Wirkus for City of Brick and Shadow
    Novel Honorable Mention: Brandon Sanderson for Worlds of Radiance
    Picture Book: McArthur Krishna, Bethany Brady Spalding, and Kathleen Peterson for Girls Who Choose God
    Picture Book Honorable Mention: Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and LeUyen Pham
    for Princess in Black
    Poetry (2013): Alex Caldiero for sonosuono
    Poetry (2014): Kristen Eliason for Picture Dictionary
    Religious Non-Fiction: Michal Austin for Re-Reading Job
    Short Fiction (2013): Brad R. Torgersen for “The Chaplain’s Legacy”
    Short Fiction (2014): Steven L. Peck for “Two-Dog Dose”
    Young Adult General Novel: Chris Crowe for Death Coming Up the Hill
    Young Adult Speculative Novel: Ally Condie for Atlantia

  6. Congratulations to both of you for your excellent work (and what has followed). Thanks for your efforts.