NWP alumna Angela Morales wins PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Girls in My Town book coverNonfiction Writing Program alumna Angela Morales has won PEN America’s 2017 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for her debut essay collection, The Girls in My Town: Essays (University of New Mexico Press, 2016).

The $10,000 award “aims to preserve the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature,” according to PEN America’s website, and is the largest literary award devoted to collections of essays. Morales was announced as the winner at the PEN Literary Awards on March 27.

The Girls in My Town is also the winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, and Morales is a recipient of the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award for nonfiction, lives in Pasadena, California, where she teaches at Glendale Community College.

Morales holds an MFA from the Nonfiction Writing Program in the Department of English, part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

About The Girls in My Town (from UNM Press' website):

The autobiographical essays in The Girls in My Town create an unforgettable portrait of a family in Los Angeles. Reaching back to her grandmother’s childhood and navigating through her own girlhood and on to the present, Angela Morales contemplates moments of loss and longing, truth and beauty, motherhood and daughterhood. She writes about her parents’ appliance store and how she escaped from it, the bowling alley that provided refuge, and the strange and beautiful things she sees while riding her bike in the early mornings. She remembers fighting for equal rights for girls as a sixth grader, calling the cops when her parents fought, and listening with her mother to Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” the soundtrack of her parents’ divorce. Poignant, serious, and funny, Morales’s book is both a coming-of-age story and an exploration of how a writer discovers her voice.

Acclaim for The Girls in My Town:

“The twelve essays in The Girls in My Town take an honest look at the rich experiences of girls trying to make space for their intelligence and imaginations. . . . An auspicious debut.” 
-- Rigoberto González, NBC News Latino 

“In this remarkable autobiographical essay collection, Angela Morales paints a stunning portrait of growing up and finding her voice in Los Angeles. . . . Morales is a home run-hitter of a writer, and she'll have you holding on to your seat with every page.” 
-- Bustle 

“Compellingly rendered. . . . Essays that are as thematically ambitious as they are deeply personal.” 
-- Kirkus Reviews, starred review 

“Morales has a strong, lyrical voice, and her essays and anecdotes can be humorous and loving and darkly meditative as they address family, beauty and violence, loss and love. In short, this collection is as varied, charming, stark, and inspiring as life itself, in Los Angeles or anywhere.” 
-- Shelf Awareness 

“It’s Morales’s ability to explore the complexities that lie beneath the surface of the seemingly mundane, her patient and unflinching handling of her story, and her drive to expose larger truths that makes this such an elegantly crafted collection.” 
-- Los Angeles Review of Books 

“[Morales’s] is the kind of writing that makes reading so rewarding.” 
-- Story Circle Book Reviews 


The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 67 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 2,200 graduate students study each year in the College’s 39 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.