Patricia Engel’s novel “Infinite Country” is the winner of the 2021 Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award, judged by authors Irena Reyn, Justin Torres, and Melissa Rivero.
Engel will receive $5,000 for the top prize and will accept the award at a virtual ceremony hosted by Fall for the Book on Friday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. Engel, born to Colombian parents, and herself a dual citizen, is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Miami.
Fall for the Book and George Mason University’s Institute for Immigration Research created the New American Voices Award in 2018 to recognize recently published works that illuminate the complexity of the human experience as told by immigrants, whose work is historically underrepresented in writing and publishing.
After finding out she won, Engel said: “As the daughter of immigrants, my writing is an offering to the community of millions around the world who make our home in diaspora, and who have our citizenry challenged at every turn. To have my work recognized by the Institute for Immigration Research, which prioritizes the complexity of migration, and among such extraordinary finalists, moves me deeply.”
Engel’s novel explores an immigrant family’s struggle of undocumented status and their divided existence between Bogotá and the United States. With the ever-menacing threat of being deported, a split family must weigh their allegiance to the past and to each other.
The judges described “Infinite Country” as “engrossing and daring from the very first sentence. Engel tells the story . . . masterfully over the course of two decades, shifting perspectives, and employing Andean myths to give us insight into her characters. In the process, she demonstrates how neither time nor borders can contain this family's connection or their love.”
Finalists Daisy Hernández and Anthony Veasna So’s estate each will receive $1,000.
The awards ceremony is virtual, and you can register for free here.
Fall for the Book is Northern Virginia’s oldest and largest festival of literature and the arts. All events are free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of sponsors including the Fairfax County Public Library, George Mason University, the Fairfax Library Foundation, and the City of Fairfax. For more information and for a full schedule of this year’s events, visit fallforthebook.org.