University of New Mexico Press author Angela Morales’s debut essay collection, The Girls in My Town, was awarded PEN America’s 2017 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. The $10,000 award honors an outstanding book that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature. Morales was announced as the winner during a live ceremony on Monday, March 27, at The New School’s John L. Tishman Auditorium in Manhattan, N.Y.
“The elegantly structured essays in The Girls in My Town illuminate the politics of everyday life with quiet wit and real humanity. Angela Morales writes with nuance, humility, and bold feminism,” noted judges 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.
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