Friday, September 16, 2005
KU English Assistant Professor Wins Jaffe Award for
Emerging Female Writers
Kansas City
info Zine

The Rona Jaffe Foundation program is the only national literary awards
program devoted exclusively to women.

LiteratureLawrence, Kan. - infoZine - Rebecca Curtis, University of
Kansas assistant professor of English with Armenian roots who is
writing her first novel, will be honored Sept. 22 in New York City as
one of six emerging female writers winning a $10,000 Rona Jaffe
Foundation Writers Award.

Curtis, who has published short stories in The New Yorker, Harper's
and McSweeney's in addition to many literary journals, says the Rona
Jaffe award will support her research for a novel based on the true
story of a woman's survival and escape from the Armenian genocide of
in the early 1900s.

The woman, Azni Gostanian, later cared for Curtis' mother when she was
orphaned at age 10. Although not related, Curtis refers to Gostanian
as her great "auntie." Two of Gostanian's daughters, now in their 70s,
are interested in helping Curtis research the story of their mother's
daring escape to the United States.

Curtis' inspiration for the novel comes from Gostanian's typewritten
account of her ordeal. Next year, Curtis plans her first trip to
Armenia and Eastern Turkey.

"I'm eager to try a different project, one that goes outside my direct
knowledge. Yet, in a way, I also feel like I'll be connecting with my
roots by telling the story of an Armenian auntie. Her escape in some
ways epitomizes the plight of women: in dangerous times, they
sometimes need to resort to using wiles, and/or their sexuality, to
survive.

Gostanian was a young wife with a new baby in 1915 when her husband
was killed along with thousands of other Armenian men by Turkish
soldiers in a massacre in Harput or Kharput now known as Elazig, in
Eastern Turkey. To save her child, and herself, Gostanian accepted the
protection of a friend of her father. She became the fifth wife in his
harem and was treated badly by his other wives.

A Turkish woman befriended Gostanian and helped her steal a horse that
Gostanian used to ride to freedom with her infant child through the
mountainous country to the Syrian border. Curtis says she envisions a
story of romance, death, escape, betrayal, kindness, salvation and
sacrifice.

Curtis joined the KU faculty in 2003. She has a B.A. from Pomona
College, an M.A. from New York University, and an M.F.A. from Syracuse
University.

The Rona Jaffe Foundation program is the only national literary awards
program devoted exclusively to women. Jaffe created the progam to
identify and support female writers of talent and promise in the early
stages of their writing careers.

The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Awards are given to writers of
fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Since the program began in
1995, the Foundation has awarded more than $520,000 to a total of 74
female writers. For many award recipients, this may be the first
public recognition they have had for their work. Past recipients of
the Writers' Awards, have since received wider critical recognition
for their work.

Jaffe is the author of 16 books, including Class Reunion, Family
Secrets, and The Road Taken; a classic children's book, The Last of
the Wizards; and her most recent novel, The Room-Mating Season
(2003). Her 1958 best-selling first novel, The Best of Everything, was
reissued by Penguin in June 2005. Email this item to a friend.

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