Author and Extension School writing instructor Joan Leegant has been named the 2003 recipient of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for her book “An Hour in Paradise” (W.W. Norton, 2003) by the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford. Earlier this spring, Leegant’s book was the co-recipient of the 2004 L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award.
Critics have hailed “An Hour in Paradise,” whose title is taken from the Yiddish proverb “Even an hour in paradise is worthwhile.” The 10 stories in Leegant’s debut mine the Jewish tradition with an edge. In settings from Jerusalem to Queens, the book follows characters in search of divine and human connection.
The Wallant Award is one of the oldest and most prestigious Jewish literary awards in the United States. Established 41 years ago by Dr. and Mrs. Irving Waltman of West Hartford, Conn., the Wallant Award is presented to an American Jewish writer, preferably unrecognized, whose published work of fiction is deemed to have significance for the American Jew. The award honors the memory of Edward Lewis Wallant, author of “The Pawnbroker” and other works of fiction, who died in 1962.
The LL. Winship/PEN New England Award is given annually to an author from New England or to an author whose writing includes a New England setting. The award honors longtime Boston Globe editor Laurence L. Winship and is sponsored by the newspaper and PEN New England.
Leegant teaches “Intermediate Fiction Writing” at the Harvard Extension School and also at Hebrew College. She is a recipient of an artist grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and several fellowships from The MacDowell Colony. Her stories have also received numerous prizes. Earlier this year, Barnes & Noble selected “An Hour in Paradise” for its Discover Great New Writers Program. Leegant’s work has appeared in the New England Review, Prairie Schooner, Pakn Treger, Crazyhorse, Nimrod, Columbia, Kalliope, the American Literary Review, the Bellingham Review, and several anthologies.