Faculty Members Lara Vapnyar and Jenny Zhang Win O. Henry Prizes

May 29, 2018

Adjunct faculty members Lara Vapnyar and Jenny Zhang each won a 2018 O. Henry Prize for short stories.


Vapnyar’s winning story, “Deaf and Blind,” appeared in an April 2017 issue of The New Yorker and is what she calls “the most autobiographical” of her fiction. The story focuses on a young girl whose mother’s friend takes a lover who is both deaf and blind, and the mystery of true love — and how it eluded her mother.


“When I was seven or eight, my mother’s friend left her husband to be with a deaf and blind man,” Vapnyar said in an interview about the story. “I was absolutely enchanted by this couple. I thought that their relationship was the essence of true love.”


Zhang won the prize for her story, “Why Were They Throwing Bricks?” which appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of N+1. The story — which also rounds out her debut story collection, Sour Heart — revolves around a young girl whose grandmother, intent on being the most important person in her life, comes from China for extended stays with her family.


The 20 winning stories will appear in an anthology from Anchor published in September.