Brown University Doctoral Student Wins the 2023 American Library in Paris Book Award

Katherine J. Chen, a first-year student in the English Ph.D. program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, recently received the 2023 American Library in Paris Book Award for Joan (Random Houe, 2022), a novel about Joan of Arc. Each year, the American Library in Paris Book Award recognizes a title, published originally in English, “that best realizes new and intellectually significant ideas about France, the French people or encounters with French culture.”

Chen took a brief break from classes at Brown late this fall to travel to France and accept the award, becoming the youngest person and first Asian American to receive the honor.

The award, Chen said, was an acknowledgement that she had accomplished what she had set out to do with her feminist retelling of one of France’s most famous patron saints, a peasant girl who in 1429 led the French army in a momentous win at Orléans during the Hundred Years’ War and was later captured and killed.

“I wanted to turn a monument, a historical icon, back into flesh and blood,” said Chen, who is from Wayne, New Jersey. “The award was symbolic of the conclusion of this quest I had embarked on.”

Chen, who studied English at Princeton University as an undergraduate, holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Boston University.

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