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September 17, 2008


NEW YORK, September 17, 2008 – Hasanthika Sirisena, an Adjunct Lecturer in English at The City College of New York [CCNY] and budding fiction writer, is a 2008 winner of the Rona Jaffe Foundation’s prestigious Writers’ Award for excellence. The 2006 alumna of CCNY’s M.F.A. program is one of six recipients this year of the only national literary award exclusively for upcoming women writers. Each will receive a $25,000 stipend.

Ms. Sirisena and the five other recipients -- Jennifer Culkin, Joanne Dominique Dwyer, Amy Leach, Jolie Lewis and Therese Stanton -- will be honored September 18 at the Jaffe Foundation’s 14th annual awards ceremony in Manhattan. Acclaimed novelist Elizabeth Strout will be the guest speaker.

Established by the late novelist Rona Jaffe, the awards identify and support women writers of talent and promise in the early stages of their careers.

Ms. Sirisena said she was deeply honored to receive the award.

“I have long respected the work of the recipients, past and present, and I am thrilled to be included among them,” she said. “I often find writing to be an isolating endeavor and I am deeply grateful to the Rona Jaffe Foundation for not only helping me to further my career as a writer but also for providing me the opportunity to meet and connect with other women at the same stage in their careers.”

A native of Sri Lanka, Ms. Sirisena is working on a coming-of-age novel entitled “Edenboro” set in the American south. The story is about a 15-year-old Sri Lankan immigrant and her newly arrived family trying to make their way in a predominantly African-American neighborhood.

Ms. Sirisena is also working on a collection of short stories. Her story “Pine” was selected by Francine Prose for the 2005 Best New American Voices and her work has since appeared in “Epoch,” “Witness” and the 2007 Annual “StoryQuarterly.”

 In addition to teaching in The City College English Department, Ms. Sirisena is an instructor at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. The Jackson Heights, Queens, resident intends to use her Jaffe Writer’s Award conducting research and finishing both her novel and short story collection, in Sri Lanka.

About The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards

The awards are given to emerging writers of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction whose published or unpublished work reveals accomplishment and demonstrate a commitment to writing. Since the program began in 1995, the Rona Jaffe Foundation has awarded more than $850,000 to a total of 92 women writers. Past recipients of the Writers’ Awards include Judy Budnitz, Lan Samantha Chang, ZZ Packer, Julia Slavin, Tracy K. Smith, Mary Szybist, and Julia Whitty. For more information, visit: www.ronajaffefoundation.org.

About Rona Jaffe

Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program in 1995. It is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively. Ms. Jaffe authored 16 books, including “Class Reunion,” “Family Secrets,” “The Road Taken” and “The Room-Mating Season” (2003). Her 1958 best-selling first novel, “The Best of Everything,” was reissued by Penguin in 2005.

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Over 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. For additional information, visit www.ccny.cuny.edu.