College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Professor Emeritus Wayne Karlin of St. Mary’s City was recently named a finalist for the 2021 PEN America Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Karlin was honored for his work titled “What Their Fathers Never Told Them.”
Set in Southern Maryland, the novel tells the story of man and woman, both of whose fathers were Vietnam War veterans, as the couple searches for secrets of their fathers’ lives and death. The story deals with trauma and psychological damages suffered by both veterans and their families due to war, as well as pro-war social pressure on adolescent males, racism and sexual repression.
Karlin had been working on the as-yet unpublished manuscript, on and off, for about six years, in between publishing another novel, “A Wolf by the Ears” last year.
“I went back to “What Their Fathers Never Told Them” over the past year, during the pandemic, and after my wife passed away in February of 2020,” Karlin shared. He has dedicated the novel to his wife, Ohnmar Thein Karlin.
“I wish she were here to share this news,” he said after hearing about the PEN America Bellwether honor. “We were together for 50 years and, in some ways, though about very different situations, the novel has been one of the ways I’ve tried to deal with the grief of that loss.”
Several chapters from “What Their Fathers Never Told Them” have already been published in various literary journals, and a chapter will appear in a 2022 anthology being published by Knopf.
The PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction is a career-founding prize, which promotes fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. Established by Barbara Kingsolver in 2000, it is awarded biennially to the author of a previously unpublished novel of high-literary caliber that exemplifies the prize’s founding principles.
Karlin, an award-winning author and former CSM faculty member, is the author of eight other novels and three non-fiction books, including ”Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam.” He routinely returns to CSM to participate in the college’s Connection Literary Series and to CSM’s Provocation Faculty Excellence Series to share his work and hold discussions with students and the community, as well as teaching courses on the novel and Vietnam War literature. Recently, his son – Author, Journalist and Travel Writer Adam Karlin – also joined in the Connections Literary Series to share his own work.
Wayne Karlin is the also recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Patterson Prize in Fiction, the Vietnam Veterans of America Excellence in the Arts Award, and the Juniper Prize in Fiction for his most-recently published novel, “A Wolf by the Ears.”
For more about the PEN America Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, visit https://pen.org/pen-bellwether-prize. More about Karlin’s work is available at http://wayne-karlin.squarespace.com/. For more about CSM’s School of Liberal Arts, visit https://www.csmd.edu/programs-courses/credit/school-of-liberal-arts/index.html. For more about CSM’s Connection Literary Series, visit https://www.csmd.edu/student-services/arts/connections-literary-series/index.html.