NORMAN — The annual Neustadt Festival of International Literature and Culture closed with an evening banquet featuring literature, Indian culture and impromptu song Friday evening on the University of Oklahoma campus.
Honoring Indian-Canadian novelist Rohinton Mistry, the banquet finale was the presentation of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, a $50,000 prize awarded by an international jury and funded by the University of Oklahoma, the Neustadt family and World Literature Today magazine.
“I have looked at the names of Neustadt Laureates, judges and nominees from years past and I’m not convinced ... I’m not convinced that I belong among them, but the esteemed 2012 jurors have made their choice, and who am I to argue with them,” Misty said, joking during his acceptance remarks.
In addition to thanking the jurors and the Neustadt family for awarding him the prize, Mistry read an excerpt from his 2002 novel, “Family Matters,” providing the guests with an endearing and bittersweet juxtaposition of a elderly man’s inner monologue with his daughter’s nagging affection.
“Though I’ve never visited Oklahoma, it has always held a special place in my heart because of the Broadway musical and its significance in my childhood,” Mistry said. Singing verses of his favorite songs, Mistry then delved into a more somber examination of the musical’s failure to mention Native Americans and the significance of this omission in the context of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s other racially-conscious musicals.
“I am grateful to the Neustadt Prize for making me think about difficult matters and bringing me full circle to the Oklahoma that I first encountered in my Bombay childhood,” Mistry said.
The Neustadt Prize is hailed by many as the “American Nobel” because of the high number of honorees who have won the Nobel Prize in Literature following their selection as Neustadt laureates. Mistry is the 22nd recipient of the Neustadt Prize.
Neustadt Laureate announced
Naomi Shihab Nye has been named laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, announced at Friday’s banquet awarding Indian Canadian novelist Rohinton Mistry the 2012 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.
The NSK Prize is a $25,000 juried award sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and World Literature Today, OU’s award winning magazine of international literature and culture. Nye will be presented the $25,000 prize, a silver medallion, and a certificate during official ceremonies at the University of Oklahoma in fall 2013.
Funded by an endowment from Doris Westheimer Neustadt, the world-renowned Neustadt International Prize for Literature, also awarded through World Literature Today, is widely considered to be the “American Nobel” and one of the most prestigious international literary prizes.
The NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature was established by her granddaughters Nancy Barcelo, Susan Neustadt Schwartz, and Kathy Neustadt to encourage high-quality writing for children by honoring an accomplished contemporary writer or illustrator of children’s literature.
Poet William Stafford has praised Nye’s work, stating, “Her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life.”
At the banquet announcement, R.C. Davis-Undiano, WLT’s executive director, commented that “with her powerful vision and high-quality poetry, fiction, and young-adult literature, Ms. Nye may be one of the most complete and accomplished writers in the world.”
Born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Mo., to a Palestinian father and an American mother, Naomi Shihab Nye spent her adolescence studying overseas in Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her bachelor’s degree in English and world religions from Trinity University.
Her collection of poems, “19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East” was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her novel Habibi has been translated into five languages and received five “Best Book” awards. She has penned multiple poetry collections and books of essays and picture books, including “Sitti’s Secrets,” which won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.