Since 1985, the Whiting Foundation has supported creative writing through the Whiting Awards, which are given annually to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Last night, the 2018 winners were honored at a ceremony at the New York Historical Society featuring a keynote by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.
The awards, of $50,000 each, are based on early accomplishment and the promise of great work to come. The Foundation hopes to “identify exceptional new writers who have yet to make their mark in the literary culture.” Though the writers may not necessarily be young (talent may emerge at any age), the grant ideally offers recipients a first opportunity to devote themselves fully to writing.
Without further ado, the 2018 Whiting Award Winners are…
Debut novelist Patty Yumi Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, whose work “opens up fresh lines of questioning in the old interrogations of identity, the politics of belonging, and the problem of other minds.”
Novelist Brontez Purnell, author of Since I Laid My Burden Down, whose “explorations of blackness, queerness, maleness, and Southernness take sharp, confident turns between raunch and rhapsody.
Debut novelist Weike Wang, who, in her novel Chemistry, “takes apart what we know about the immigrant experience and puts something bold and new in its place, with a scientist’s eye and epigrammatic humor.”
Nonfiction writer Esmé Weijun Wang, author of the novel The Border of Paradise and the forthcoming The Collected Schizophrenias (Graywolf Press, 2019), which “undertakes an investigation into life with schizoaffective disorder and chronic illness with narrative drive and prose of confiding grace.” And, Esmé’s forthcoming collection is an upcoming Rumpus Book Club selection!
Nonfiction writer and poet Anne Boyer, author of Garments Against Women, whose work “unsettles all the familiar shapes of memoir and poetry to build a new city, one where worn ideas of labor and creativity are a monument toppled in the square.”
Poet Rickey Laurentiis, author of Boy with Thorn, whose poems “trace the complex relationships among power, freedom, and violence with both sinuous lyricism and urgent declamation.”
Poet Tommy Pico, author of, most recently, Nature Poem, as well as the forthcoming Junk, who “writes poetry of rare brilliance, assured in form and forceful in its interrogation of myth and cultural expectations and self.”
Playwright Nathan Alan Davis (Nat Turner in Jerusalem; Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea), who has an “uncanny gift for allegory and language, boiling down the large narratives of the African-American past to the scale of individuals wrestling to express themselves.”
Playwright Hansol Jung (Among the Dead, Cardboard Piano), whose plays “knit together the agonies of Korean history, the restless excitement and anxiety of the tech age, and the shapes of loss and longing.”
Playwright Antoinette Nwandu (Pass Over, Breach), whose “blistering interrogations of race, power, and violence range from symbolic to highly naturalistic works.”
All ten writers will read at a free, public event introduced by previous Whiting Award winner Alice Sola Kim this evening, Thursday, March 22, at 6:30 p.m. at Housing Works Bookstore in Manhattan. If you’ll be in New York, this a reading not to be missed!