Sister Mariella Gable Series
The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism
Deborah Baker has written four award-winning books since she started writing in 1982. Beacon Press published her first biography, Making a Farm: The Life of Robert Bly, in Baker's undergraduate years at the University of Virginia and Cambridge University. After college, she worked in publishing and editing, only returning to writing when she moved to Calcutta, India. Grove Press published her second book there, Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding, which competed for the 1994 Pulitzer Prize in Biography. In 2008, Penguin published her third book, A Blue Hand: The Beats in India, and she served as a Fellow at New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis C. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars. Baker used this fellowship to research and write The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism, which narrates the conversion of an American to Islam. In addition to the Sister Mariella Gable Prize, her book served as a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award in Non-Fiction.
About the Award
Sister Mariella Gable's spirit inspires the College of Saint Benedict Literary Arts Institute serving the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University (LAI) and all of its programs. Dante scholar, poet, editor, writer, champion of new fiction, the late Sister Mariella Gable was an outstanding English professor who taught at the College of Saint Benedict from 1928-1973. In the Spring of 1984, she produced an essay on the first fifty years of CSB history, "In League with the Future". She guided many students into lives informed by literature and played an important role in the early careers of such writers as Flannery O'Connor, Betty Wahl, and J.F. Powers. An essay about Sister Mariella and her writings was written by Sister Nancy Hynes for the introduction to Mariella's book, The Literature of Spiritual Values and Catholic Fiction.
The Sister Mariella Gable Award is given each year by the College of Saint Benedict for an important work of literature published by Graywolf Press. Graywolf Press, described by Ploughshares magazine as, "arguably the best small press in the country," and LAI have formed an innovative collaboration to explore new ways of promoting the literary arts on campus, to audiences in the surrounding area, and in the Twin Cities. The 2012 winner of the Sister Mariella Gable Prize is The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism. Past winners include One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina, The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song by Ellen Bryant Voigt, All of it Singing by Linda Gregg, Duende by Tracy K. Smith, the trilogy, Variation on the Theme of an African Dictatorship by Nurruddin Farah, The Collected Poems of Jane Kenyon by Jane Kenyon, The Weatherman by Clint McCown, One Vacant Chairby Joe Coomer, The House on Eccles Road by Judith Kitchen, and Loverboy by Victoria Redel, which was made into a movie by Kevin Bacon in 2005.