Lisa Ko of Brooklyn has claimed the 2016 PEN / Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for her novel The Leavers, which will be published by Algonquin Books in 2017.
The novel follows a 10-year-old boy after his Chinese-American immigrant mother leaves for work one morning and doesn’t come back. Soon, her son Deming finds himself adopted by a Caucasion family and renamed Daniel Wilkonson, incorporated into a culture nothing like the one he’s known and loved, while puzzling over why his mother might have left him. Following these narrative threads, The Leavers asks whether a child is better served being raised by adoptive parents with their English fluency and economic privilege, or with his family and culture of origin, despite having few educational and financial resources. A novel that draws links between economic migration and the adoption industry, The Leavers is, as Laila Lalami says, “A rich and sensitive portrait of lives lived across borders, cultures and languages … one of the most engaging, deeply probing, and beautiful books I have read this year.”
Ko’s fiction has appeared in Apogee Journal, Narrative, Copper Nickel, Storychord, One Teen Story, Brooklyn Review, and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in Best American Short Stories 2016. A founding co-editor of Hyphen and a fiction editor at Drunken Boat, Lisa has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the MacDowell Colony, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, Writers OMI at Ledig House, the Jerome Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, the Van Lier Foundation, Hawthornden Castle, the I-Park Foundation, the Anderson Center, the Constance Saltonstall Foundation, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center.