2013: Claire Vaye Watkins, 'Battleborn'

Native Californian Claire Vaye Watkins’ short story collection, Battleborn, took the Prize in 2013, impressing judges with her ability to create ‘a perfect version of a complete world’ in each of her tales. The collection won many awards, including The Story Prize (2012), and The Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2012).

Claire’s second book – and first novel – Gold Fame Citrus was published in 2015 to broad critical acclaim, and she has had essays and short stories appear in a range of publications, including Granta, The Paris Review, and The New York Times.

2013: Claire Vaye Watkins, 'Battleborn'

Synopsis - 'Battleborn'

Like the work of Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, and Annie Proulx, Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptionally powerful and original literary voice. In each of these ten unforgettable stories, Claire Vaye Watkins writes her way fearlessly into the mythology of the American West, utterly reimagining it. Her characters orbit around the region's vast spaces, winning redemption despite - and often because of - the hardship and violence they endure. The arrival of a foreigner transforms the exchange of eroticism and emotion at a prostitution ranch.

A prospecting hermit discovers the limits of his rugged individualism when he tries to rescue an abused teenager. Decades after she led her best friend into a degrading encounter in a Vegas hotel room, a woman feels the aftershock. Most bravely of all, Watkins takes on – and reinvents – her own troubled legacy in a story that emerges from the mayhem and destruction of Helter Skelter. Arcing from the sweeping and sublime to the minute and personal, from Gold Rush to ghost town to desert to brothel, the collection echoes not only in its title but also in its fierce, undefeated spirit the motto of her home state.

Press releases


Claire Vaye Watkins - 2013 Winner

In this episode, Cultural Institute intern Niall Macgregor talks to award-winning writer Claire Vaye Watkins.