The JC Wingate literary prize for 2018 has been awarded to Michael Frank, for his “dazzlingly vivid portrait” of his childhood in Los Angeles, The Mighty Franks.
Mr Frank was announced as the winner at an event at the JW3 Jewish community centre this evening, where the award’s judging panel discussed the joys and challenges of adjudicating the specifically Jewish prize.
Toby Lichtig, the chair of the panel, described Mr Frank’s work as “a dazzlingly vivid portrait of an eccentric Los Angeles family.
“The book is beautifully written, perfectly paced, uncomfortable, tender and surprising.
“Although it wears its Jewishness lightly, the background culture pulses unmistakably throughout: in the pull of the old world of mitteleuropa, in the growing pains of American assimilation, in the vexed and complex domestic dynamics at its heart.
“This is both a book about a very specific Jewish family and in some sense about all families. As such it should be read, reread and enjoyed by everyone.”
Michael Frank described himself as “delighted” to have won the prestigious award, now in its 41st year, saying he was “especially honoured that it has been chosen from a group of such distinguished books.”
Previous winners of the prize, which is worth around £4,000, include Amos Oz, Zadie Smith and Oliver Sacks.
Other finalists in this year’s competition included Linda Grant for The Dark Circle; Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem by George Prochnik, and The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others by Mya Guarnieri Jaradat.
“The fact that the memoir has been read for its implicit, rather than explicit, depiction of Jewish identity seems to affirm my own feeling that there are as many ways to convey Jewishness as there are Jews,” said Mr Frank.
“Mine is a very personal portrait of a very particular family, one I set out to draw with as much candour and clarity as I could command.
“Jewishness was everywhere and nowhere at the same time, both in the lived experience and the summoning of it from memory.”