blackbirdonline journalSpring 2023  Vol. 21  No.3
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Founded in 2001 as a joint venture of the Virginia Commonwealth University Department of English and New Virginia Review, Inc.

Copyright © 2023 by Blackbird and the individual writers and artists

ISSN 1540-3068


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Announcing the Prize and Award Event

spacer Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto
   Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto

Katarzyna Jakubiak was the 2021 winner of the Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize for outstanding short fiction. Her story “Made of Sugar,” published in v20n1 in the spring of 2021, was selected by our editors from short fiction published by Blackbird over the previous two-year period.

“In Made of Sugar,” Jakubiak tackles the multigenerational saga of a family’s bakery in Poland and in the process manages to illuminate fifty years of Polish history. Jakubiak captures both a complicated nostalgia for Poland’s twentieth century past and an uncertainty about post-soviet developments, and to do so, she employs a young woman’s memories of her grandfather’s bakery which began its life as a refuge of whimsy and bounty in a post-WWII landscape. With the increasing commercialization of the culture and of the town of Częstochowa, the narrator must reckon with family and community identity when the scent of the bakery, originally “the scent of the whole family for whom the bakery will become the only provider,” begins to dwindle away.

Jakubiak received the award at Virginia Commonwealth University on March 3, 2022, and gave a reading from her award-winning work alongside PEN-Malamud winner Amina Gautier. Documentation of the event will appear in a future issue of Blackbird.

The Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize is sponsored by the family of Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto in her memory to honor her devotion to the art of writing fiction, to expand the audience for outstanding short stories, and to encourage literary excellence among writers early in their careers.

Currently, a prize of $2,000 is offered every other year for the best work of short fiction published by Blackbird during that period, with a particular emphasis on work by an emerging or underappreciated writer.

Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto was born September 21, 1945 in Richmond, Virginia. She died in October of 2007 after being struck in a pedestrian crosswalk in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Her sustained interest in writing led to her fiction being published in a number of literary journals as well as winning several competitions, including the 1996 and 2000 Short Fiction contests sponsored by Richmond Magazine. She was a graduate of St. Gertrude’s High School in Richmond and of Virginia Commonwealth University (class of 1967), and in 1971 she received an MA in English from the University of Michigan.

Her husband, David H. Tarumoto, who established the award at VCU in 2010, resided in California and passed away in 2016 at the age of seventy-five.

While funding for the prize itself comes from David Tarumoto’s endowment, the Department of English welcomes contributions in support of the celebration. Anyone wishing to make a donation is invited to visit the secure online contributions page.