Karen Joy Fowler is the winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction with her novel “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,” it was announced Wednesday. Fowler’s acclaimed novel tells the story of sharp-voiced woman raised by scientist parents who adopted a chimpanzee as a sibling-slash-experiment.
Manuel Muñoz, head of the three-judge panel, said in a statement, “This superb novel is not only comic and smart, it packs a surprising emotional punch. Fowler captures an altogether new dimension of the meaning — and heartbreak — of family dynamics.”
The questions Fowler’s novel raises about what it means to be human have been echoed in recent legislative efforts, the Washington Post reports. The federal government has made moves to declare chimps an endangered species, which would prohibit using them in medical testing.
Interviewed in 2013, Fowler said, “This gives me hope that we may rethink our relationship to chimps even more profoundly in the future, acknowledging their basic legal rights as the Great Ape Project has proposed.”
Now in its 34th year, the PEN/Faulkner awards are presented by the Washington D.C.-based PEN/Faulkner Foundation.
Previous winners of the award include Deborah Eisenberg, Sherman Alexie, Joseph O’Neill, Kate Christensen, Ann Patchett, Annie Proulx, and Philip Roth.
The winner will receive $15,000; each of the other four finalists — Daniel Alarcón for “At Night We Walk in Circles,” Percival Everett for “Percival Everett by Virgil Russell,” Joan Silber for “Fools” and Valerie Trueblood for “Search Party: Stories of Rescue” — gets $5,000.
Fowler will be presented with the prize at a ceremony in Washington on May 10. Tickets are $100.