Whiting Award Winners

Since 1985, the Foundation has supported creative writing through the Whiting Awards, which are given annually to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama.

News & Reviews

The Star Tribune reviews Chemistry by Weike Wang

The Tribune calls Wang “a visionary,” writing that her novel about a burned-out Ph.D. candidate pondering her Chinese heritage and an upcoming marriage “has crafted a narrative that manages to be both restrained and explosive.”

Full Stop magazine reviews Camp Marmalade by Wayne Koestenbaum

The magazine writes that Koestenbaum’s latest collection “mixing conscious states like color” and declares that, “for Koestenbaum, art is no therapy or escape. It simply tags along, delivering beauty un-deliberated.”

The LA Review of Books on Junk by Tommy Pico

The LA Review of Books writes that Pico’s latest is full of “poems that are complex yet accessible, that sound like 2018 but that have staying power long past it,” comparing the poet to Frank O’Hara.

The Kenyon Review on In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae

Jonathan Farmer discusses how the latest book differs from McCrae’s previous work, meditates on his relationship to the book as a white reader, and praises the “power” of McCrae’s poems.

“The Magic of Denis Johnson”

In The Nation, writer J. Robert Lennon pens a moving tribute to Johnson’s life and his final collection, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden. "It wasn’t that his books failed to conform to expectations,” Lennon writes. “It was that his talent was too slippery to set them in the first place."

“The Afro-Pessimist Temptation” by Darryl Pinckney

"It’s as though racism has always been the action and dealing with it the reaction," Pinckney reflects in his New York Review of Books piece on Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cornell West, and afro-pessimism.

Hazlitt interviews Alexander Chee

Chee talks about how writing characters for fiction and nonfiction differs, and what inspires him to write about difficult aspects of his life.

Mask magazine reviews Junk by Tommy Pico

Mask calls Pico’s newest book-length poem – about topics ranging from Janet Jackson to right-wing politicians – “his most formally and thematically impressive work yet.”

The Guardian reviews Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam

The Guardian calls Klam “a deft hand at juxtaposition” and praises his ability to “evoke a sense of absurdity, but without resort to exaggeration.”

“Testament Scratched into a Water Station Barrel (Partial Translation)” by Eduardo C. Corral

In a new poem for Poetry magazine, Corral’s narrator articulates an impending death, and laments “An animal/ is prowling/ this station. It shimmies with hunger./ It shimmers/ with thirst./ To keep it away,/ I hurl my memories at it.”

“A Young Man” by Jericho Brown

A new poem by Brown explores a father-son bond through both men’s relationship to a daughter: “We stand together on our block, me and my son,/ Neighbors saying our face is the same, but I know/ He’s better than me.”

The New York Times reviews Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith

"There is a sense in this volume that our better angels will need to become rowdier. They will need to know how to handle themselves in a brawl," writes Dwight Garner. He goes on to call the collection "scorching." 

Sactown Magazine profiles William T. Vollmann

William T. Vollman doesn't own a cellphone, once submitted a 3,800-page long manuscript, and sleeps with Sacramento's homeless community under the stars. Sactown Magazine profiles the writer and calls his new work about climate change "a discursive masterpiece.”

The New York Times profiles Tracy K. Smith

The Poet Laureate, recently elected to a second term, discusses bringing poetry to “rural areas where most writers are unlikely to visit” and how poetry can provoke honest conversation.

Houstonia magazine interviews William T. Vollman

Vollman talks about drones, drinking with pro-nuclear power plant engineers, and what gives him hope for the future.

Passing of Joan Chase

The Whiting Foundation regrets the passing of exceptional writer Joan Chase, Whiting 1987, "an archaeologist of our recent past and present, reading our traces back to us, showing us to ourselves freshly discovered and understood." (Russell Banks)

Publishers Weekly reviews Junk by Tommy Pico

Calling Pico’s previous work “stellar,” Publishers Weekly says that his latest book “is a therapeutic process for poet and reader alike” and gives Junk a starred review.

Kaitlyn Greenidge interviews Tracy K. Smith for Vogue

Greenidge interviews fellow winner, Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, about forming the Dark Room Collective and why her “hope is to create spaces where people of all stripes can come together and speak at a lower decibel level.”

TIME interviews Tracy K. Smith

TIME talks to the poet, whose new collection Wade in the Water explores race and the Civil War, about visiting an Air Force base and what poetry has in common with prayer.

“A New Way of Living” by Jericho Brown

For Lambda Literary, Brown talks about why the power of poetry doesn’t need to be eternal, reflecting on a recent church experience to declare that “poetry is not interested in seeing itself last forever. It is a force that means to move us now.”

The Los Angeles Times reviews The Undressing by Li-Young Lee

In the Times, fellow poet Craig Morgan Teicher remarks “few poets write like Li-Young Lee these days, facing the biggest and broadest questions head-on,” praising Lee’s “enormous sensuality.”

The Millions reviews Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

Call Me Zebra is “at its heart a novel about the powerful role of literature in self-discovery,” writes the literary blog, praising Van der Vliet Oloomi’s to pull the reader into her character’s mind.

The Guardian interviews Francisco Cantú

Cantú talks about the process of becoming a border patrol agent, and what he thinks that borders – in the United States, and globally – can teach us about humanity.

The Atlantic reviews Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

The novel "is a ‘masterpiece’ in the original sense of the word,” writes the magazine, praising Halliday's ability to depict “profound and violent kinds of asymmetry.”

New Work

Camp Marmalade by Wayne Koestenbaum

Part diary, part collage, part textbook for a new School of Impulse, Camp Marmalade assembles a perverse and giddy cultural archive, a Ferris wheel of aphorisms, depicting a queer body amidst a dizzying flow of sensations, dreams, and distillations. "This book presents a hallucinatory glimmer of what that life might be without granting precedence to any single method," declares Bookforum

Junk by Tommy Pico

In Junk, a narrator ponders illusions of security, sense of self, and indigenous identity. Pico explores the anxiety of utility, the loss of a boyfriend, plus Janet Jackson and Chili Cheese Fritos. "Junk," says writer Jenny Zhang, "is a true American odyssey."

Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith

In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith ties America’s contemporary moment both to the nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the everlasting. Smith explores what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a collection the New York Times calls "scorching."

 

No Immediate Danger by William T. Vollmann

Vollmann explores a topic that will define the generations to come: the factors and human actions that have led to global warming. Featuring Vollmann's signature encyclopedic research, No Immediate Danger, builds up a powerful, sobering picture of the ongoing nightmare of Fukushima. The Washington Post calls the book "a feverish, sprawling archive of who we are, and what we’ve wrought.”

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is Chee’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history. BuzzFeed's Isaac Fitzgerald says "Alexander Chee is one of the best living writers of today. If he’s not already a household name, he needs to be."

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

In what NPR calls a "penetrating meditation on loss," a woman unexpectedly loses her best friend, then finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. The woman refuses to be separated from the dog, and, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling - but also discovers the rich rewards of companionship.

Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

Zebra, last in a line of autodidacts, leaves New York to retrace the journey she and her father made from Iran to the United States years ago. Books are her only companions—until she meets Ludo."Hearken ye fellow misfits, squint-eyed bibliophiles & book stall-stalkers," writes Wall Street Journal. "Here is a novel for you."

The Line Becomes A River by Francisco Cantú

When Cantú joins the Border Patrol, he and his partners learn to haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive. Plagued by nightmares, Cantú finds returning to civilian life impossible when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico and does not return. Esquire calls the memoir "a must-read."

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

Asymmetry explores inequities in age, power, and justice. Told in three unique sections, the novel tells the story of an aspiring novelist’s coming-of-age and an Iraqi-American detained by immigration officers. "Halliday is knowing," Time Magazine writes, "about isolation, dissatisfaction and the pain of being human." 
 

The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcón

 Alarcón's story collection, longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Fiction, tells high-stakes tales of migration, betrayal, and uncertain futures. The Washington Post writes that the stories in The King Is Always Above the People "draw out humanity where it seems little hope is left." 

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson

This collection, finished shortly before his death, depicts the characters that Johnson was known and loved for: deeply contemplative narrators whose flaws only made them seem more human. "With this book," writes Entertainment Weekly, "Johnson has only cemented his status as one of his generation’s greatest writers."

Here in Berlin by Cristina Garcia

An unnamed visitor traveling to Berlin encounters the vibrant characters of the city: the Cuban teen taken as a POW on a German submarine; the young Jewish scholar hidden in a sarcophagus; the female lawyer haunted by a childhood of deprivation. Garcia's newest work is a meditation on the stories of the past and their place in the future.