Stone Fruit, Lee Lai’s graphic novel about a queer couple and their relationships with their families, has added another award to its growing collection. Penn State University Libraries has awarded it the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize for 2022. The graphic novel was published by Fantagraphics in May of 2021.
The award comes with a $2,500 prize, and the winner is chosen by a jury. In their write-up, the jury said, “Lee Lai’s ‘Stone Fruit’ is one of those rare graphic novels where everything — story, text, images, style — comes together in full complement to create a memorable, moving experience for readers.”
“How is it that something so sweet, wonderful, and delicious is also filled with hardness? This question animates Lee Lai’s empathetic exploration of love, intimacy, kinship, and care in ‘Stone Fruit.’ Lai’s nuanced character and question-driven graphic novel sparingly uses line, text, and color. These choices bring a starkness to the story, but they also open spaces for readers to engage more deeply with the complexities around what family means. Dream-like ink wash landscapes contrast with bodies that carry the marks of living and loving, just as the scenes of joyous monstrosity are foils for the traumas embedded in the lives of Bron, Ray, Amanda, and Nessie.
In addition to the Graphic Novel prize, the committee also chose two “honor” books: How to Pick a Fight by Lara Kaminoff and No One Else by R. Kikuo Johnson.
The Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize is presented annually to the best graphic novel, fiction or nonfiction, published in the previous calendar year by a living U.S. or Canadian citizen or resident. Named for artist Lynd Ward, it honors his influence in the development of the graphic novel and celebrates the gift of an extensive collection of Ward’s wood engravings, original book illustrations and other graphic art donated to Penn State’s University Libraries by his daughters Robin Ward Savage and Nanda Weedon Ward. Between 1929 and 1937, Ward published his six groundbreaking wordless novels: “Gods’ Man,” “Madman’s Drum,” “Wild Pilgrimage,” “Prelude to a Million Years,” “Song without Words” and “Vertigo.”