2020 Lamar York Prize Winners and Finalists

Thank you to all of the writers who entered, with a special thanks to our judges, Alice Bolin for Nonfiction and Anthony Varallo for Fiction.

Winner for Fiction

“With Mercy to the Stars,” Lisa Nikolidakis

A wonderful and surprising coming-of-age story about two Greek teenage girls, an unwanted pregnancy, and a dancing bear named Callisto. I was totally drawn in from the first page, happy to be in the company of a young narrator who is just starting to glimpse the limitations of the adulthood that awaits her, as confining as the cage that houses her father’s prized bear. The story forces the narrator to make a choice that will have ramifications for her, her best friend, and her family—and fully initiate her into the world of choice and consequence. A powerful story that is a pleasure to read from the opening sentence to the harrowing last line.  
Anthony Varallo

Winner for Nonfiction

“Catharsis, Diagnosis,” Rachel Toliver

“Catharsis, Diagnosis” begins as straightforward memoir and blooms into something stranger and more wonderful: a treatise on the obsessive-compulsive act of storytelling, analysis of a classic graphic novel, a meditation on how comics tell stories, and on how our lives, with their nonsensical, sometimes brutal vignettes, resemble comics. This piece offers no easy epiphanies, no cliché narrative diagnoses—it seems to struggle, in fact, between twin impulses to say nothing and to say too much. In the end, this is the essay’s hard-won brilliance, as it wrestles with its obsessions and compulsions, achieving a profound synthesis of form and content.
Alice Bolin

Finalists for Fiction
“Jacinto Shaves,” Margherita Arco
“With Freedom Comes Possibility,” Melissa Bowers
“The Trail,” Omer Friedlander
“Sunlit Charms of the Bareheaded Soil Eater,” L. A. Harris
“Wild Quaker Parrot,” Janis Hubschman
“Soon the Light,” Gina Ochsner
“Butterflies,” Craig O’Hara
“The Iranian Double,” Ajay Patri
“Sad Bird,” Pascha Sotolongo

Finalists for Nonfiction
“The Parade,” Mary Birnbaum
“Paylessness,” George Choundas
“House Training,” Kathleen Flann
“The Blue House,” Jiadai Lin
“Vigilance,” Laura Marshall
“Perfectly Fine,” Caitlin McGill
“How Harriet the Spy Saved My Life,” Beth Richards
“Ninja Assassin,” Arielle Schussler
“Obsessive Tendencies,” Michael Shorris