University of New Mexico Press author Angela Morales’s debut essay collection, "The Girls in My Town," has been named a finalist for PEN America’s 2017 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. The award honors an outstanding book that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.

The winner receives a cash award of $10,000. Winners will be announced at the 2017 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony in March at The New School’s John L. Tishman Auditorium in Manhattan, N.Y.

The Girls in My Town joins four other titles honored as finalists: The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs, Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women by Siri Hustvedt, and Becoming Earth by Eva Saulitis. The judges for the 2017 award are Eula Biss, Kiese Laymon, and Paul Steiger.

Moving, darkly comical, and intensely personal, the essays in The Girls in My Town create an unforgettable portrait of a Mexican-American family in Los Angeles. Reaching back to her grandmother’s childhood and navigating through her own girlhood and on to the present, Morales contemplates moments of loss and longing, truth and beauty, and motherhood and daughterhood, offering both a coming-of-age story and an exploration of how a writer discovers her voice.

Featured on NBC News’s “Your Summer 2016 Reading List: 9 Great Books by Latino Authors” and Bustle’s “9 Women Writers Who Are Breaking New Nonfiction Territory,” The Girls in My Town has garnered praise in media outlets such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, Kirkus Reviews, and Shelf Awareness. In his piece for NBC News, Rigoberto González wrote, “The twelve essays in The Girls in My Town take an honest look at the rich experiences of girls trying to make space for their intelligence and imaginations. This is Morales’s first book and an auspicious debut.”

Cheryl Strayed, New York Times bestselling author of Wild, selected The Girls in My Town as the winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, calling the book “beautifully written” and “sharply perceptive.”

Morales lives in Pasadena, Calif., and teaches at Glendale Community College. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and is a recipient of the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award for nonfiction.

Established in 1929 by the Regents of the University of New Mexico, UNM Press ranks within the top third of publishing houses in the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) and is the fourth largest university press west of the Rocky Mountains in publishing new titles. With over 1,200 titles in print and as a distributor of more than 700 titles for 35 local and regional publishers, the Press is an important element in enhancing the scholarly reputation and worldwide visibility of the university.

For more information, visit UNM Press.