Tanya Paperny is the 2021 winner of BIO’s Hazel Rowley Prize for her proposal for Tender/Fierce: The Life and Death of My Revolutionary Prababushka. The committee was impressed by Paperny’s gripping prose about an important story of political tyranny that has been little told from a biographical perspective. “In 1938, my great-grandmother Tatiana Ivanovna Shatalova-Rabinovich was executed by the Soviet secret police and dumped in a mass grave where hundreds would soon lie,” Paperny writes. “In her too-short life, she organized the release of political prisoners, co-edited radical pamphlets, and intersected with the famed Leon Trotsky, a man also killed by a Stalinist agent. This biography will be among the first English-language works written by a descendent of Stalin’s victims.”
Paperny is a writer and artist based in Washington, D.C. She earned an MFA in nonfiction and literary translation from Columbia University, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and numerous other publications.
The Rowley Prize, worth $2,000, goes to a first-time biographer and also includes a careful reading from an established agent; a year’s membership in BIO and registration to the annual conference; and publicity for the author and project. The prize is a way for BIO—an organization of biographers, agents, editors, and biography devotees—to advance its mission and extend its reach to talented new practitioners. You can see a list of past winners here.
BIO gives the prize in memory of Hazel Rowley (1951–2011), born in London, educated in England and Australia, and a long-time resident of the United States. A BIO enthusiast from its inception, Rowley understood the need for biographers to help and support one another. Before her untimely death, she had written four acclaimed biographies. Rowley was a passionate advocate for the art and craft of biography, a writer of exacting standards, and a generous friend to fellow biographers.