The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (West Virginia University Press), a debut short story collection, has won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
"In The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, her masterful debut collection of stories, Deesha Philyaw speaks in the funny, tender, undeceived voices of her title characters, who have more in common perhaps even than they know, from love to loss to God,” this year’s judges, Charles Finch, Bernice L. McFadden, and Alexi Zentner, wrote in a prepared statement. “In the group portrait that emerges, Philyaw gives us that rarest and most joyful fusion—a book that combines the curious agility of the best short fiction with the deep emotional coherence of a great novel."
Philyaw's book, which was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction last year, was selected from among 419 eligible novels and story collections by American authors published in the U.S. during 2020 and submitted by 170 publishing houses. Philyaw is also the co-author, with her ex-husband, Michael D. Thomas, of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce (New Harbinger).