Naomi Benaron's debut novel, RUNNING THE RIFT, is the winner of the 2010 Bellwether prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. She was born and raised in Boston Massachusetts and is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Before she lost her mind and decided to devote her life to writing, she worked for many years as a geophysicist and seismologist. She teaches at Pima Community College and online through the Afghan Women's Writing Project, an online space where the women of Afghanistan can write in safety and freedom.
"Running the Rift" follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Rwandan boy, from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life, a ten-year span in which his country is undone by the Hutu-Tutsi tensions. Born a Tutsi, he is thrust into a world where it 's impossible to stay apolitical where the man who used to sell you gifts for your family now spews hatred, where the girl who flirted with you in the lunchroom refuses to look at you, where your Hutu coach is secretly training the very soldiers who will hunt down your family. Yet in an environment increasingly restrictive for the Tutsi, he holds fast to his dream of becoming Rwanda 's first Olympic medal contender in track, a feat he believes might deliver him and his people from this violence. When the killing begins, Jean Patrick is forced to flee, leaving behind the woman, the family, and the country he loves. Finding them again is the race of his life.
Winner of the G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction, selected by Stuart Dybek. Benaron's stories cover a remarkable range of themes and conflicts, including family relationships, genocide in Rwanda and Europe, the American Jewish experience, women's experience in traditionally male fields, and such challenges as mental illness and physical mortality. Yet beyond its deft depictions of conflict, Benaron's stories offer the reader a wide range of hope, humor, pathos, and literary transformation.
"Naomi Benaron is fearless. Her work shines a light into the darkest corners of human existence and, in doing so, helps us both bear witness to atrocity and find hope and healing"--Gayle Brandeis.