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Francesca Segal Scores the Sami Rohr Prize

Her debut novel ‘The Innocents’ wins her $100,000

Adam Chandler
April 09, 2013
Francesca Segal.(Telegraph)
Francesca Segal.(Telegraph)

Each year, five Jewish authors get the honor of making the list of finalists for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, an award which yields the ultimate winner tribal fame, endless prestige, and a $100,000 prize. This year’s winner has been announced and it is Francesca Segal, author of the highly-acclaimed novel The Innocents.

Last month, Jessica Weisberg described a bit of what goes into the selection of the prize.

The Rohr Prize is intended for an emerging writer of Jewish literature—but the way the award defines “Jewish literature” is somewhat vague. “We look for books written with a Jewish pen and Jewish eyes, that have a kernel of Jewish content,” said Carolyn Starman Hessel, the director of the Jewish Book Council, which hosts the awards. “Strong feelings of Jewish identity now might change the writers’ focus in the future.” There are no submissions; finalists are nominated by a panel of judges. “Otherwise, I’d have to rent out the Empire State Building,” to house all the eager entries, Hessel said.

Perhaps proving the point, The Innocents provided our own Rachel Shukert with the material to make Segal’s Jews of North London an analogue of Edith Wharton’s New York.

Not to be omitted is Ben Lerner, whose great book Leaving the Atocha Station won the runner-up spot.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.