Dionne Irving Bremyer named finalist for PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Author: Josh Weinhold

Dionne Irving Bremyer
Dionne Irving Bremyer

Dionne Irving Bremyer, an associate professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, has been named a finalist for the 2023 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the country’s most prestigious peer-juried prize for novels and short stories.

The honor is for Irving Bremyer’s short story collection “The Islands,” which follows the lives of Jamaican women — immigrants or the descendants of immigrants — who have relocated all over the world to escape the ghosts of colonialism. 

“I feel humbled and grateful to be a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. The imagined lives in 'The Islands' carry forward the stories of my community, of my culture and of my life,” she said. “I spent too long wondering if anyone else might even be interested in reading such stories, so this acknowledgment by the PEN/Faulkner judges is a gift of recognition that, to me, bespeaks a hopefulness about how stories of immigration and migration can permeate our cultural and artistic imaginations.”

A trio of judges considered more than 500 novels and short story collections published in 2022 from American authors. Other finalists for the award are Jonathan Escoffery (“If I Survive You”), Kathryn Harlan (“Fruiting Bodies”), Yiyun Li (“The Book of Goose”) and Laura Warrell (“Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm”). The winner will be announced in early April, with all five finalists being honored at a May 11 ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Irving Bremyer is Notre Dame’s second PEN/Faulkner Award finalist in the past four years — Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, an associate professor of English, won the award in 2019 for her novel “Call Me Zebra.” Other past winners of the award include John Updike, Philip Roth, Michael Cunningham, Deesha Philyaw and Annie Proulx.

“To have 'The Islands' honored in this way suggests a more hopeful future in part by amplifying stories emanating from places confronting existential threats of environmental obliteration,” Irving Bremyer said. “Perhaps these stories can help save those places, these people and this culture. It is a profound honor to be listed among the other finalists whose work I deeply respect and admire, and I am beyond grateful to the judges of the PEN/Faulkner Award for their attention to and care for my work.” 

“The Islands” has received an array of positive reviews — the New York Times Book Review called it “an electric collection” that “teaches us what kinds of respites can be found in diaspora — fleeting, begrudging, but real nonetheless,” while the Chicago Review of Books praised Brymyer’s stories for the way they “sing in their lyricism and complexity—a hallmark of an exciting new voice in literature.

Originally from Toronto, Ontario, Irving Bremyer teaches in Notre Dame's Creative Writing Program and is a faculty fellow of the Initiative on Race and Resilience. She writes fiction and nonfiction that investigates and questions personal, cultural and national hybridity emergent in a postcolonial world.

Her work has appeared in Story, Boulevard, LitHub, Missouri Review and New Delta Review, among other journals and magazines. Two essays, “Treading Water” and “Do You Like to Hurt,” were notable essays in Best American Essays 2017 and 2019. She is the author of the novel “Quint” (7.13 Books), a fictional retelling of the true story of the Dionne quintuplets. 

Irving Bremyer has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes and has been awarded two Tennessee Williams scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a scholarship and residency from the Voices of Our Nation Writers Conference.

Originally published by Josh Weinhold at al.nd.edu on March 10.