The award will prompt Sáenz to do something outside his comfort zone — read his own published work.
“I never reread any of my books. Only when I give readings do I go back to what’s been published,” he said, and he added that this time he will have to thumb through the book to find the perfect selection.
Overall, the judges considered more than 350 novels and short-story collections by American authors published in the U.S. in 2012, according to a news release from the foundation.
“Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club,” published by El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press, is a collection of seven stories anchored at the well-known bar in Juárez just four blocks from the international bridge. The bar is the backdrop where the characters “struggle with the impossible ambiguities of borders, whether they be sexual, emotional, national or economic,” the release states.
“The author takes stunning care with language — English, Spanish, and the languages of sunlight, daylight, dimlight, nightlight — twisting and tumbling with the whispered language of the human heart,” judge A.J. Verdelle wrote.
“Sáenz also devotes impressive attention to rendering communities on the borders of the United States and Mexico, on the boundaries of sensual and sexual expression, on the edge of despair, and on the cusp of redemption.”
Another judge, Nelly Rosario, said the collective voices of the narrators in Sáenz’ stories “speak artlessly, as wisdom does, and ask us to listen for the borderless poetry of the spirit.”
Sáenz is no stranger to awards. He has won a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in poetry, a Lannan Poetry Fellowship, and an American Book Award. His other literary work has previously won the Stonewall Book Award presented by the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table.