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Originally published Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 9:05 AM

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Sherman Alexie wins PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, for 'War Dances'

Seattle author Sherman Alexie has won the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction for "War Dances," a book of short stories, essays and poems.

Seattle Times book editor

Seattle author Sherman Alexie has added another award to his groaning shelf of literary trophies — the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction for his book of short stories, essays and poems, "War Dances" (Grove Press).

The prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award is the largest peer-juried prize for fiction in the United States.

"War Dances" collects 23 stories, essays, poems and call-and-response sequences that examine themes of love, the hazards of love and betrayal, as well as Indian stereotypes, race relations and the corrupting nature of success.

In the announcement, made Tuesday morning from Washington, D.C.'s Folger Shakespeare Library, judge Al Young stated, " 'War Dances' taps every vein and nerve, every tissue, every issue that quickens the current blood-pulse: parenthood, divorce, broken links, sex, gender and racial conflict, substance abuse, medical neglect, 9/11, Official Narrative vs. What Really Happened, settler religion versus native spirituality; marketing, shopping and war, war, war. All the heartbreaking ways we don't live now — this is the caring, eye-opening beauty of this rollicking, bittersweet gem of a book." '

Alexie said Tuesday that the award is particularly meaningful to him, both because he's the first Native American author to win and because "it was established by writers, for writers. The fact that writers give the award is big for me, especially for this book." He called "War Dances" a "mixtape" of writing styles and forms that not all reviewers and readers understood; "stories, poems, themes intersecting themes. Some people missed that."

Alexie, 43, previously won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature for his autobiographical novel "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." And he recently picked up the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award.

As winner, Alexie receives $15,000. Each of the four other finalists — Barbara Kingsolver for "The Lacuna" (Harper); Lorraine M. López for "Homicide Survivors Picnic And Other Stories" (BkMk Press); Lorrie Moore for " Gate at The Stairs" (Knopf); and Colson Whitehead for "Sag Harbor" (Doubleday) — receives $5,000.

All five authors will be honored on May 8 during the 30th anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Mary Ann Gwinn: 206-464-2357 or mgwinn@seattletimes.com.

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