The family and close friends of Politics & Prose cofounder Carla Cohen announced Tuesday the establishment of a new literary prize in her memory,The Carla Furstenberg Cohen Literary Prize, along with its first two winners. The 2013 prize, awarded annually to authors of first or second books in fiction and nonfiction, went to Anthony Marra for his first novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, and David Finkel for his second book, Thank You for Your Service. Each winner will be awarded $5,000.
This year’s fiction judges included Politics & Prose cofounder Barbara Meade, longtime friend and buyer for the store Mark LaFramboise, and National Book Award-winning novelist Howard Norman. Nonfiction judges included Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson, longtime national public radio producer Darcy Bacon, and America’s Promise president and CEO John Gomperts. Jurors were chosen by a board made up Cohen’s friends and family. Neither the Cohen family nor the Politics and Prose current owners, Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine, and staff had or will have a veto over the selections.
The pool of eligible authors came from books included in two special Politics & Prose newsletters, which designate the store's top picks by the owners and the staff. In addition, books by new authors chosen by Washington Post critics as outstanding in the previous year will be considered.
David Cohen, Carla’s husband and chairman of the prize's board said, “Carla's legacy lives. Two talented writers exemplify a new generation of probing, resilient and compassionate writing. Anthony Marra and David Finkel have an uncommon understanding and feel of courage and building lives under continuing adversity. I can see Carla thrusting Marra's and Finkel's into customers hands and telling them and me, ‘You just have to read these books.’ Who says there's no future for serious books that dig deeply.”