Jane’s Stories Press Foundation is proud to name Sue William Silverman the winner of the 2021 Clara Johnson Award for her memoir How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences (Nebraska, 2020), a brutally honest account of surviving sexual assault that challenges mental health assumptions about how trauma can affect even the most privileged among us.
Judges found the book groundbreaking in its use of fiction techniques such as incremental revisions, classical allusions, and dictionary definitions to center the narrative in each chapter. They were also impressed with the documentation of how she recovered from her trauma, as well as the searing honesty with which she recounts its effect on her life. “It has to be one of the most utterly honest books I’ve ever read,” said judge and Jane’s Stories founder Glenda Bailey Mershon.
The Clara Johnson Award for Women’s Literature was established in 2018 to honor women-authored literature that is “ground-breaking, purposeful, bold, excellent, and challenging in social constructs.”
The award was named in home of Clara Johnson, one of the first editors of the Jane’s Stories anthologies by women, who pushed for “stories with a purpose.” Johnson, who died in 2017, spent the bulk of her career as a chemist, beginning during WWII. She went on to become a groundbreaking feminist, managing the office of the Illinois National Organization for Women during and after the ERA ratification campaign. Later, she wrote a self-published memoir of growing up on a Carlinville (IL) area farm and managed a feminist essay contest, while also becoming a co-owner of Prairie Moon Feminist Bookstore in Arlington Heights, IL.
And congrats to the other finalists!