The Georgia Review congratulates Brian Truong, who was selected by judge Jennine Capó Crucet as the winner of the inaugural Georgia Review Prose Prize. Truong will receive $1,500 for his essay “Fake Handbags,” which will be published in the Summer 2023 issue. He will also give a public reading this summer with Crucet.
Of Truong’s essay, Crucet wrote:
“Fake Handbags” lures us into the world of counterfeit name-brand goods and quickly moves us past the superficial to the substantial. It impressed me with its literal and figurative focus on the details—how those very details become a way to judge something’s authenticity or quality—be it a handbag or a father’s rage. Those same details—a misaligned zipper, the spacing between letters in a logo—also become the means by which a mother and her sons grow closer over time. Learning to pay close attention ends up being the way the speaker in this essay navigates not only the vendors on New York’s Canal Street, but also his relationships with his parents—and specifically his father. In the case of the latter, it’s how he ultimately survives his father’s violent temper—something the speaker demonstrates as an outgrowth of relentless sacrifice that he feels goes unnoticed. But he’s wrong; his son is watching it all, taking it in, and depicting it for us with generosity and deep care. There is nothing at all phony about the heart on display in this captivating and engrossing essay.
Brian Truong is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work has received fellowships and support from Millay Arts, Periplus, Tin House, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. “Fake Handbags” will be his first published essay and is part of his memoir-in-progress about growing up in a family of working-class Vietnamese refugees in Texas.
Crucet’s choice for the top fiction entry and the runner–up for the Georgia Review Prose Prize is Ernie Wang’s story, “Mother, Marksman,” which will also appear in our Summer 2023 issue.
As Crucet writes,
From this story’s opening lines to its confession soon after that those opening lines aren’t actually true, the narration in this wonderful story powers through some of life’s thorniest emotions—despair, resentment, fear, rage, disgust—with direct humor and an authority I couldn’t resist. And I love stories where a character’s job plays such a big part in revealing who they are: on the very first page, we find Yumi wishing that a table of customers at the restaurant where she works had been run over by a dump truck. Her day job contrasts hilariously (and later, tragically) with her evening obsession of playing an online video game—one for which she is not the target audience, to say the least. And all of it is a distraction from what she cannot face: her inability to connect with her grown son and his suffering. It’s ultimately a story about how difficult yet necessary it is to show our love to those around us in all the ways we know how, and yet it’s told in a way that skillfully cloaks that intention until the very end. “Mother, Marksman”is a hilarious, surprising, and ultimately very moving short story.
Ernie Wang is a second-generation Chinese-Japanese-American writer. He grew up on U.S.military bases in Japan. His short fiction appears or will soon appear in Chicago Quarterly Review, McSweeney’s, Mississippi Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, Story, and elsewhere. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Houston.
We would also like to thank everyone who submitted to this year’s contest; the complete list of finalists can be found below. For more information about the contest, please visit here. We look forward to reading work from both previous and first-time entrants when the next Georgia Review Prose Prize opens in November 2023!
2022 Georgia Review Prose Prize Winner and Finalists
Brian Truong, “Fake Handbags”
Ernie Wang, “Mother, Marksman”
Jung Hae Chae, “Good Hair”
Olivia Cheng, “Confinement”
Nicole Haroutunian, “Points of Light”
Daryl Li, “Killing Time”
Nathan Roberts, “Walking Home”
Allegra Solomon, “True Blue”
L.J. Sysko, “Inside Lane”
Kosiso Ugwueze, “The Wedding”