Ellen Cassedy, of Takoma Park, Md., has been named the winner of the 2013 Towson Prize for Literature for her book, We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust, published in 2012 by the University of Nebraska Press.
Established in 1979 with a grant from Alice and Franklin Cooley, the award is given annually for a single book or book-length manuscript of fiction, poetry, drama or imaginative nonfiction by a Maryland writer.
The prize is granted on the basis of literary and aesthetic excellence as determined by a panel of distinguished judges appointed by the university.
Cassedy has spent years researching the Lithuanian Holocaust. Her book, We Are Here, originally began as a personal quest to learn more about her Jewish ancestry. But that journey soon evolved into a larger mission to uncover “how people in Lithuania—Jews and non-Jews alike—are engaging with their Nazi and Soviet past in order to move forward into the future.”
She is the author of Beautiful Hills of Brooklyn, an award-winning play based on the real diary of an actual elderly woman. The play—which examines the beauty and simplicity of a “small but important life”—was adapted into a short film that was nominated for an Academy Award.
Cassedy’s Yiddish translations have appeared in Pakn Treger, the magazine of the National Yiddish Book Center and in Beautiful as the Moon, Radiant as the Stars: Jewish Women in Yiddish Stories, published by Warner Books. Together with colleague Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, she won the National Yiddish Book Center 2012 Translation Prize for translation of fiction.
She was previously a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and has published two books for working women. Her writing has also appeared in Huffington Post, Ha’aretz, Jewish Journal, Hadassah, The Jewish Forward, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Lilith, Bridges, Utne Reader, Polin and Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies.