A Whitney Young Magnet High School teacher has won the 2010 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for her fictional book, “A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True.”
Brigid Pasulka, who teaches Survey of Literature and Advanced Placement Composition at the Near West Side CPS high school, was named winner of the prestigious literary competition by PEN (Poets/Playwrights, Essayists/Editors, Novelists) New England and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Pasulka will receive her award on March 28 in a ceremony at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Patrick Hemingway, son of the legendary Nobel Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway, will present her with the award.
The Hemingway Foundation will award Pasulka with an $8,000 prize and a one-week residency in The Distinguished Visiting Writers Series at the University of Idaho’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing. She will also receive a fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a retreat for artists and writers.
Pasulka has taught at Whitney Young for seven years.
Her book, which she said took about six years to write, “braids together two tales of old and new Poland,” according to a synopsis in Publishers Weekly. “The old is the fairy tale love story of the Pigeon, a young man so entranced by village beauty Anielica that he builds her family a house to prove his devotion. When war comes to Poland, the Pigeon works for the Resistance, guarding the town and his Jewish sister-in-law with creativity and bravery. After the war, he and Anielica get engaged and the Pigeon brings his family to Kraków, but the fabled promises of the golden city and the glories of communism prove hollow.
“The new tale is about Anielica and the Pigeon's granddaughter, Beata, whose plainness has earned her the nickname Baba Yaga. Now living in a much-changed Kraków, Beata is a bar girl with no hopes of love or plans for the future. When tragedy strikes and Beata uncovers family secrets, she brings together the old and new to create her own bright future. Pasulka creates a world that's magical despite the absence of magical happenings, and where Poland's history is bound up in one family's story.”
Pasulka said the Whitney Young administration, her colleagues and her students "have been encouraging and supportive from the start, making it easy for me to pursue my dual passions of teaching and writing.”
“I'm truly proud and grateful to work with our amazingly talented student body and among the professionals in my school and in the Chicago Public Schools," she said.
Whitney Young Principal Dr. Joyce Kenner praised Pasulka’s commitment and dedication to students. “In observing Ms. Pasulka, I can see her passion for writing and her extraordinary craft, her ability to expose our young people to valuable English literature,” said Dr. Kenner. “She helps her students understand the importance of writing and relates it to everyday life. She is an outstanding teacher and writer.”
The PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award is given for a novel or book of short stories by an American author who has not previously published a book of fiction. It was founded by Mary Hemingway, a member of PEN, in 1976, both to honor the memory of her husband Ernest and to recognize distinguished first books of fiction.
A panel of three distinguished fiction writers – which this year included Julia Glass, Michael Lowenthal and Gail Tsukiyama -- selects the winner.
“The Chief Education Office and the Office of Teaching and Learning support the development and accomplishments of great teachers,” said Katherine Volk, deputy officer in the CPS Office of Teaching and Learning. “Teachers of this caliber are an asset to students and to the district.”
Chicago Public Schools serves 417,855 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.