Best Local Writer - 2009
Most people don't know that Russell Banks, the John Dos Passos Award-winning author of famously cold-weather novels such as Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter, spends half his year in South Beach. But unlike most snowbirds, Banks is very active in Miami's literary life. As a board member of Cities of Refuge, an international program that finds two-year residencies in the United States for writers being persecuted in their home countries, Banks has joined forces with Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan to make Miami one of the program's host cities. If the project is successful, the housing of one or more foreign authors would instantly improve the scope of our literary life, because COR residents frequently teach in local universities, run seminars, and give readings. Of course, Banks has already been a loyal participant in Miami Book Fair International, and his 1985 book Continental Drift is one of the best American novels to use our city as a primary location. His newest work, Dreaming Up America, is a terse and vivid account of the history of the United States, dictated off the cuff by Banks to a French documentary crew. Smart, passionate, and thorough, Banks is among the best we've ever been able to claim.