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The Mark Twain House & Museum announced today that author Dawnie Walton has been honored with the 2022 Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award (MTAVL) for her acclaimed novel The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. Created in 2017 by New York Times-bestselling author David Baldacci and inspired by Twain’s 1885 masterpiece Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the award recognizes a superlative work of fiction published during the previous year that captures a singularly American story in a distinctly American writing style. Walton will travel to Hartford for the MTAVL Celebration Dinner on Saturday, November 4 where she will receive her award and its accompanying $25,000 prize, sponsored by Baldacci and Bank of America.

Dawnie Walton states, “It’s a special honor to be celebrated for the voice of this novel, because conducting the spirited chorus that is its heart and soul was the aspect of writing I cherished the most. Thank you to the judges and The Mark Twain House & Museum for this award, and thank you to all the authors on this year’s stellar list of nominees, who wow me with their own beautifully unique American voices.”

The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade was named the 2022 MTAVL runnerup selection by the judges, with the other semi-finalists being Virtue by Hermione Hoby and Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson. Previous MTAVL honorees include Stephen Graham Jones for The Only Good Indians (2021), Ocean Vuong for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2020), Jesmyn Ward for Sing, Unburied, Sing (2019), Bill Beverly for Dodgers (2018), and T.C. Boyle for The Harder They Come (2017).

Joe Gianni, President, Bank of America Greater Hartford, noted, “Bank of America is pleased to be part of honoring Dawnie Walton with the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award. Twain remains one of Hartford’s best-known residents, having made his home here for seventeen years. His historic home is one of the region’s most visited tourist attractions and Museum leadership works hard to make certain his legacy lives on with important programming and author talks. Bank of America is committed to the Twain mission that encourages critical thinking and fosters humanity, humor, and social justice.”

Mark Twain House & Museum Executive Director Pieter Roos notes, “We received a wealth of exciting submissions this year. Ms. Walton’s novel is a revelatory work, particularly for a debut novel. The museum, David Baldacci and Bank of America are delighted to honor her at the historic home where Twain developed the first truly American style of writing.”

Among sixty titles that were submitted by publishers, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev was selected as the 2022 MTAVL winner by a panel of judges that includes novelist Ann Leary, Mark Twain scholar Larry Howe, and former Hartford Courant Arts Editor Donna Larcen.

Howe states, “The distinct voices in the text are a real triumph, and evidence of Walton’s talent for creating a diverse array of realistic interview subjects.” Larcen adds, “Dawnie Walton’s first novel is masterful storytelling in a refreshing use of multiple narrators and creative footnotes as entertainment journalist Sunny Shelton digs into the reunion of the 1970s interracial rock duo Opal & Nev to dig out the truth about the death of her drummer father. She weaves in themes of cultural appropriation of black artists, long-held damaging secrets, and the power of commerce over art.”

The Mark Twain House & Museum will host the American Voice in Literature Celebration Dinner on Saturday, November 4 at 6pm. This special event, which will feature remarks from Baldacci and Walton as well as a multi-course meal, is open to the public. Tickets are $175 with a VIP option that includes a private pre-reception with Walton and Baldacci. To register, please visit the website here.

The MTAVL Celebration Dinner Presenting Sponsor is Bank of America. Webster Bank is Premier Sponsor. Supporting Sponsorship is provided by Grunberg Management, The Hartford, and Talcott Resolution.


About Dawnie Walton and The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

Dawnie Walton’s debut novel The Final Revival of Opal & Nev received instant acclaim from critics and readers alike upon its publication in March 2021 by 37 Ink, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The book is the winner of the Aspen Words Literary Prize, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and was named one of the best books of 2021 by The Washington Post, NPR, Esquire, and former U.S. President Barack Obama, among others. Walton’s work explores identity, place, and the influence of pop culture. Formerly an editor at Essence and Entertainment Weekly, she has received fellowships in fiction from MacDowell and Tin House, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her writing has appeared in Oxford American, Bon Appetit, NPR, Lithub, and Black Ballad. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is a rocking rollercoaster that details the formation, break-up and reunion of a seminal music duo. Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. When the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together.

Just as Opal is finding her niche as part of a flamboyant creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything. Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.