Katherine Vaz, a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard University and a 2006-7 Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, is the author of Saudade (St. Martin’s Press, 1994; paperback, 1996), which received critical acclaim as the first contemporary novel from a major New York publisher about Portuguese-Americans. Barnes & Noble included it in their Discover Great New Writers series. Saudade appeared in Portuguese in 1999 and immediately made the bestsellers list. Film rights were optioned by Marlee Matlin and Solo One Productions.
Literary critic Vamberto Freitas attested that Saudade “will come to be considered the first great ethnic Luso-American novel,” and that it has been the first to receive “significant attention from the American literary world.” (Diário de Notícias, July 4, 1996). The Luso-Americano, the largest Portuguese newspaper in the U.S., also declared that “Katherine Vaz is the only Luso-American writer, and the only author in the United States tackling the theme of Portuguese emigration, to see her books published by the major publishing houses.” ( November 21, 1997). Dr. K. David Jackson of Yale University (Professor of Portuguese and Chair of the Council on Latin American Studies) has cited her body of work as “A major contribution to Latino/Latina/Hispanic Literatures in the U.S., and U.S. minority literature.”
Vaz’s second novel, Mariana, is in seven editions in six languages, in hardback and paperback editions, with distribution in over one hundred countries. The novel was purchased in English (HarperCollins) by Malcolm Edwards, the United Kingdom’s 1996 Editor of the Year.Rizzoli Press ( Italy) selected the book as one of the lead titles for 1997. Simonetta Bartolini of Il Giornale said of Mariana: “Vaz has succeeded in the daunting task of blending an exquisitely beautiful love story with an insightful exploration of . . . mysticism,” and “Seldom does one read pages of such intense beauty and intelligence about the female heart.” The American edition was released in 2005 from Aliform Press, Minneapolis.
Editions in Spanish (Emece Editores), Portuguese (Edições ASA), German (Hoffman & Campe) and Greek (Psichogios Publishers) have been released, with a second edition in German two months after publication and a paperback edition in 2000. The Portuguese edition went into a fourth edition in October, 1999 and has remained a bestseller.
The Library of Congress selected it as one of the Top 30 International Books of 1998.
Mariana was optioned by Anne Harrison, former Director of Development for Martin Scorsese, now Executive Producer for Harrison Productions.
As recipient of the 1997 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Vaz had her story collection, Fado & Other Stories, published in October, 1997, by the University of Pittsburgh Press. The book, translated into Portuguese in 2002, was favorably reviewed by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Times Literary Supplement of London, The International Herald Tribune, and many other publications.
One of the stories appeared inBest American Horror & Fantasy, 1998. The title story was cited as one of the top 100 American stories of 1989 (Best American Short Stories, 1990). Her short fiction has appeared in over two dozen literary quarterlies, including BOMB, Glimmer Train, The Antioch Review, The Malahat Review, Tin House, The Iowa Review, Triquarterly, Gettysburg Review, Nimrod, The American Voice, Other Voices, The Sun, Kalliope, Black Ice Confrontation, Five Points, and Pleiades.
Her second collection, Our Lady of the Artichokes and Other Portuguese-American Stories, won the 2007 Prairie Schooner Book Prize and was published by the University of Nebraska Press in Fall 2008. Two stories were shortlisted in Best American, one received an Honorable Mention in the Zoetrope All-Story Fiction Contest, and one received Honorable Mention in the Pushcart Prizes.
Vaz’s non-fiction has appeared inThe New York Times (the Sophisticated Traveler section, September 18, 1994, “Songs of the Soul, Songs of the Night” about fado-singing in Lisbon).She also writes occasional book reviews for The Boston Globe.
Her chapter on “Baptism” for Signatures of Grace was a Spring, 2000, release from Dutton.(Other writers include Ron Hansen, Mary Gordon, Andre Dubus, Paul Mariani, Paula Huston, and Patricia Hampl.) Her children’s stories were included in A Wolf at the Door, an anthology by Simon & Schuster, and The Green Man (Viking Press) and Swan Sister (Simon & Schuster), and Faery Reel (Viking).
Katherine Vaz received a Grant Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1993, as well as several research grants from the University of California. She received a Davis Humanities Institute Fellowship for Spring, 1999.
She has been a featured speaker at a number of conferences, including the PALCUS National Conference at UMass/Dartmouth, October, 1996, and the Luso-American Education Foundation Conference, March, 1997, at the University of California at Berkeley. She presented a forum on “Magic and Saudade” at the University of the Azores in November, 1996, and a talk on “Fiction and the Gaps of History” at the Fifth Annual Conference on Atlantic Heritages in California (May, 1997). In October, 1997, she spoke at the Library of Congress on “The Real and the Imaginary Coalesce into Fiction: Songs of Fate in Portuguese Stories” at the invitation of the Portuguese Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress. She also delivered a lecture about “Spirits, Magic, and Silences in Luso-American Fiction” at Georgetown University.
She was a speaker at the First International Conference on Portuguese Literature in April, 1998, at Rutgers University on “different cultural versions of the good life,” through Phi Beta Kappa. Vaz was also, at the same conference, the first keynote speaker for the Daniel A. & Elvira Rodrigues Lecture series sponsored by the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience. She gave the keynote address at the 1998 annual convention of the U.P.E.C. (União Portuguesa do Estado da California), an honor bestowed on her father thirty years ago. Other readings and talks have been at Princeton University, Yale University, and the University of Illinois/Urbana. She is frequently on the staff of the Squaw Valley Writers Conference.
The Luso-Americano recently selected her as one of the Top 50 Luso-Americans of the 20thCentury. She is a member of the Authors Guild, PEN/America, PEN/New England, the Luso-American Education Foundation, PALCUS, (Portuguese-American Leadership Council of the U.S.) and the Sacramento chapter of the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society. Katherine Vaz was selected as a member of the Luso-American contingent to welcome the Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Guterrez, to the U.S. at a reception hosted by Vice President Al Gore (Spring, 1997).
She has twice been interviewed on Portuguese national television by Maria Teresa Horta and was the subject of dozens of radio and print stories during the launching of both Mariana and Saudade in Portugal and the Azores.
Her interview at the Library of Congress, recorded for the archives of the Hispanic Division through the arrangement of that division and the Embassy of Portugal, was the first for a Luso-American, and will be housed along with the recordings of such authors as Octavio Paz, Gabriela Mistral, Jorge Amado, Pablo Neruda, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
In Fall, 2000, Vaz made a second presentation at the Library of Congress, a discussion on the Holy Ghost Festivals of California. The talk, as well as a CD of the official music, and a slide presentation by Michael Trudeau, are now housed in the permanent collection of the Folk Life division of the Library.
She was appointed to the six-person U.S. Presidential Delegation to attend Expo 98/theWorld’s Fair in Lisbon, June, 1998, to celebrate opening ceremonies at the American Pavilion and to meet with His Excellency Jorge Sampaio, President of Portugal (June, 1998).PALCUS awarded her a 2000 Leadership Award, and Portuguese-American Women’s Association of Providence and Boston named her the 2002 Woman of the Year.
Visit Katherine’s wikipedia page.