Dappled Things is proud to announce the most recent winners of the Jacques Maritain Prize for Nonfiction, named for the influential 20th century Thomist philosopher and Catholic convert whose work covered a wide range of topics including metaphysics and epistemology, ethics, politics, literature, and art. The winners are chosen from all nonfiction pieces published in the journal during the previous calendar year. We are happy to recognize these stand-out entries from among a strong and widely varied field.
First place winner The Weight of Memory by Krystal Song is a gorgeous reflection on the lives and faith of her ancestors in China. “Man says one thing, means another,” her great-great-grandmother knows too well. “But Yesu is no man, the Catholic missionary said. He is God, and he says one thing and means it.” This is enough for the matriarch of the clan to decide her entire family will be Christian. This is the faith that sustains the family as they suffer through the carnage of the Japanese invasion and the beginning of communist rule, and it is the faith with which the author struggles as she tries to come to terms with her history. “In the end, making sense of the missing pieces is trying to count the stars in the sky.”
Second place goes to Tradition and the Baptism of Horror by Chase Padusniak, a thoughtful essay about the role of horror fiction in fighting against modernity’s power to “disenchant” our lives, to make them seem devoid of any hidden meaning or purpose beyond what science can reveal. He focuses primarily on “The Horror at Red Hook” by H.P. Lovecraft and The Ballad of Black Tom, a rewriting of the same story by Victor LaValle. Neither of these authors is Catholic, but Padusniak uses their works to explore the idea that “Through horror and science fiction the depths of the human soul can be probed even as tinges of the spiritual are re-implanted into mundane modern existence.”
Our third place honoree is A Moving Experience by Liz Charlotte Grant, available only in the print edition of Dappled Things. Lighthearted, funny, and moving (pun intended), Grant brings the reader through the trials and tribulations of a childhood spent in a whirlwind of different homes around the world, to the dramas of home ownership as a newlywed, with a brief history of cardboard thrown in for good measure. “By 1909, [Robert] Gair had created a paper empire in which shipping cartons of corrugated paperboard made tin cans, fabric bags, and wooden crates nearly obsolete… Thanks for nothing, Bob.”