The University of Iowa

Alexander Chee earns 2017 Paul Engle award


IOWA CITY — Alexander Chee has been named the sixth recipient of the Paul Engle Prize, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization.

The prize honors an individual who, like Engle, has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts.

Chee will receive the prize, which includes a one-of-a-kind work of art and $10,000, during a special ceremony at 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Coralville Public Library as part of the Iowa City Book Festival.

“I am stunned by this news, and honored to be this year’s recipient. It’s an award I hope to live up to,” Chee said.

Chee, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is a Korean-American writer, poet, reviewer, and essayist who writes about race, gender and LGBTQ+ issues. He is also an activist for the AIDS advocacy organization, ACT UP. He lives in New York City.

His debut novel, “Edinburgh,” was praised for its careful handling on the difficult subject of sexual abuse. It was the winner of the Whiting Award, the James Michener/Copernicus Society Fellowship Prize, Iowa Writers’ Workshop’s Michener Copernicus Prize in Fiction, and was the recipient of the Lambda Literary Foundation Editor’s Choice Award.

His second novel, “Queen of the Night,” a historical novel about a female opera singer, was met with high praise.