2016 fiction judges

Sumbul Ali-Karamali

Sumbul Ali-Karamali earned her B.A. in English from Stanford University. After graduating, she worked as an editor at a small (now defunct!) publishing company and then attended law school at the University of California at Davis, where she was an editor of the law review. After working as a corporate lawyer for several years, she earned her LLM degree in Islamic Law from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, where she stayed on as a research and teaching assistant at the Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law. Her first book, The Muslim Next Door: the Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing, is an introduction to Islam, featuring academically reliable information intertwined with anecdotes and stories of growing up Muslim in America; it is a 2009 Bronze Medal Winner of the Independent Publishers Awards and was chosen for Silicon Valley Reads 2012, a 14-city-wide reading program. Sumbul's second book, Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam, is written for ages ten and up, and is an anecdotal, often humorous, explanation of what Muslims believe, where they live, and how they practice. Sumbul has just finished recording Growing Up Muslim for Random House Audio.

In addition to her books, Sumbul has published numerous essays, legal articles, and opinion pieces; she is also a regular blogger for the Huffington Post. In the past few years she has been featured as a speaker on over two hundred occasions, in person, radio, and television. She serves on the boards of Hidden Villa and Silicon Valley FACES, two organizations promoting diversity education and multicultural understanding. She also serves on the steering committee of Women in Islamic Spirituality and Equality, an initiative which promotes women's rights from an Islamic viewpoint, and she is a member of the Muslim Women's Shura Council, an international body of Muslim women scholars researching and publishing academic position papers for use throughout the world in promoting social justice. In her spare time, Sumbul loves to read, listen to opera, play the violin, and watch Star Trek reruns with her family. She can be visited on her website, www.muslimnextdoor.com.

Heidi W. Durrow

Heidi W. Durrow is the New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Algonquin Books), which received writer Barbara Kingsolver's 2008 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Literature of Social Change. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky has been hailed as one of the Best Novels of 2010 by the Washington Post, a Top 10 Book of 2010 by The Oregonian, a Top 10 Buzz Book of 2010 by the Boston Herald and named a Top 10 Debut of 2010 by Booklist. Ebony Magazine named Heidi as one of its Power 100 Leaders of 2010 along with writers Edwidge Danticat, and Malcolm Gladwell. In 2011, Heidi was nominated for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Debut.

Heidi is a graduate of Stanford, Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism and Yale Law School.  Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Heidi has worked as a corporate litigator at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and as a Life Skills trainer to professional athletes of the National Football League and National Basketball Association. She served as a host of the award-winning weekly podcast Mixed Chicks Chat; and a founder and producer of the now defunct Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival.  She is the founder of the Mixed Remixed festival, the premiere event celebrating stories of the Mixed experience, and an occasional essay contributor to National Public Radio.  She is also a sought-after public speaker who has spoken at Brown, Exeter, Yale Law School and Sundance among others.  She has been featured as an expert on multiracial and multicultural issues and identity by the NBC Nightly News, the New York Times, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, Ebony Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Heidi is the recipient of a Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Writers, a Jentel Foundation Residency, and won top honors in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition and the Chapter One Fiction Contest. She has received grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the Roth Endowment and the American Antiquarian Society. She has also received Fellowships to the Norman Mailer Writers' Colony and the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference. http://heidiwdurrow.com

Elizabeth McKenzie

Elizabeth McKenzie's short fiction has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, the Pushcart Prize anthology, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Threepenny Review, and many other literary journals. Her story collection Stop That Girl was short-listed for The Story Prize, and was a Newsday and Library Journal top ten Book of the Year. Her novel MacGregor Tells the World was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the year, a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book, and a Library Journal Top Ten Book of the year. She was  the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts/Japan-US Friendship Commission Creative Artist Fellowship in 2010, and is the editor of an anthology of contemporary Japanese literature forthcoming in 2012 entitled My Postwar Life.  McKenzie received her MA from Stanford in English and Creative Writing, and is the Editor of the Chicago Quarterly Review. http://www.macgregortells.com

2016 nonfiction judges

Fritz Kasten

Fritz was an English major at the University of Iowa, with an emphasis on writing.  He has never abandoned his interest in reading and in literature.  His work, however, has been in the music business, first as a performing musician--with bands that included: Vince Guaraldi; Big Brother & the Holding Company; and the Berkeley-based, Joy of Cooking.  He left performing in the early 1980s and began working as a producer, in artist management, and as a record company executive. 

He was an advisory board member of NARAS (National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences) and a member of AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), now a part of the Screen Actor's Guild.  He has a Master's Degree in Television production. 

Since retirement from the music business, Fritz has been active in the Roxburghe Club, a group of bibliophiles and fine-printers, and has continued to collect books in a number of disciplines.

Hank Saroyan

Hank Saroyan's thirty-five year career in entertainment has run the gamut from performing, to writing, producing, directing, and composing for television and features. He is one of few directors with Emmy Awards for directing in live-action (William Saroyan's The Parsley Garden) and animation (Jim Henson's Muppet Babies.)

Between projects, Hank can be found on stage performing "A Tribute to William Saroyan--In His Own Words," accompanied by renowned jazz and classical musicians such as cellist, Eugene Friesen, pianist, Philip Aaberg and others. Kevin Starr, friend of William Saroyan and Professor of History at University of Southern California, wrote:

"There is music in the prose of William Saroyan and his nephew Hank Saroyan and his colleagues are now releasing that music with new intensity through a magic amalgam of musical artistry and the spoken word. William Saroyan now speaks to us, once again, with the full force of his living presence."

Barron Park Book Group

The Barron Park Book Group was founded in 1995 and has met nearly every month since.  Its membership includes women in teaching, the arts, business and technology who have reviewed and discussed works of literary fiction, non-fiction, essays, and biography.  The group selects works through an internal selection process, and works are are informally ranked and recorded in the group’s records.  They are altering their selection process to accommodate the Saroyan Prize review efforts.  We look forward to their input.