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

“Driving to Ottawa” by Tracy K. Smith

In a new poem for TriQuarterly, the Poet Laureate reflects on distance both literal and figurative, and asks “ The days/Are bright but cold. Our shadow/Spreads like ash across each road./ How much more will we bury/ In the earth?”

Booklist reviews Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

Halliday’s debut novel, a store from New York City to Kurdistan and back again, is “a deep rumination on the relation of art to life and death,” writes Booklist.

“In Memorium: Lil Peep” by John Jeremiah Sullivan

"Where did he get the balls? He didn't know there were balls required,” Sullivan writes, reflecting on the life of young rapper Lil Peep, who recently died of an accidental drug overdose. “There aren't," Sullivan concludes. "Something else is."

The Los Angeles Review of Books on Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

"What Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts did for gender and sexuality,” the Review writes, "Call Me Zebra does for the experience of exile." The review also praises Van der Vliet Oloomi’s "quietly devastating moments" in her novel about the power of language and literature.

“Three Words” by Li-Young Lee

“Why won’t God-My-Mother’s wounds heal?/ Wounding myself doesn’t cauterize her wounds./ Another wound to her won’t seal her open blooms,” writes Lee, in a new poem about the meaning of words, for Poetry magazine. 

Stephanie Powell Watts receives an NAACP Image Award

Powell Watts won the award for “Best Literary Debut” for her collection No One is Coming to Save Us. Other Image Award winners included director Ava DuVernay and actor Danny Glover. 

World Literature Today interview Li-Young Lee

Lee discusses his complicated relationship to the word “home,” the necessity of exploring perspectives from both the East and West, and “redeeming desire.”

Chicago Creatives interviews Phillip B. Williams

Williams, a Chicago native, talks about that way his birthplace influences work, and why he’s cautious about literary criticism: "I wish for poets to qualify the work we share without emptily commodifying it." 

The Creative Independent interviews John Keene

Keene reveals how translation is like being a fiction writer and why the ability to write - 10 pages, a poem a day, or even just a few sentences - is "astonishing." 

The Oldie reviews Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello

"Passarello is sassy but tender; smart, angry and wondering,” writes the UK publication, praising the urgency of Passarello's collection of essays about animals. 

Publishers Weekly reviews How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly praises Chee’s new collection about everything from tending to a garden to an AIDS march, writing that Chee "informs and educates readers while they’re too enraptured to notice."

Shelf Awareness interviews André Aciman

In a conversation about books and reading, Aciman discusses hiding Dracula from his parents as a child, and the “unforgettable stateliness” of the King James Bible.  

The New York Times reviews The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcón

Fellow novelist Laila Lalami reflects on themes of displacement Alarcón’s new collection, and writes that “Alarcón manages to offer a fresh look at migration, the oldest story of all.”

“I am Here Only for Working” by William T. Vollman

For Harper’s, William T. Vollman interviews petroleum refinery works in the United Arab Emerates, who sleep in bunks separated by ethnicity and only agree to talk to him when they realize he is writing a book – not working for the government. 

“Spotlit At Last: Asian American Writing’s New Generation”

The Guardian highlights recently published work by Asian American writers, including Yiyun Li, Tony Tulathimutte, and Ocean Vuong, and discusses the importance of immigrant narratives and voices outside the margins.

Daniel Alarcón on Minnesota Public Radio

Alarcón discusses the inspiration behind the title for his new collection, The King is Always Above the People, and his philosophy on story writing: “If things end well in a story it's only because they'd lopped off the last four chapters.”

“Gray Eraser” by Joan Kane

“If I wake missing the cold,/ fresh sound of new snow,/ I may still miss the kinds of places/ that scar me and complete/ my sorrow,” muses Kane in her latest for Poets.org, a meditation on the quiet life of the forest.

Shane McCrae receives a Lannan Award

McCrae received an award for Poetry, which recognizes “writers who have made significant contributions to English-language literature.” 

Three Whiting winners make Time’s Best Novels of 2017 list

The Changeling by Victor LaValle, The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott, and Danzy Senna’s New People are all featured on the list of ten novels of “compelling writing and fresh storytelling.” 

Nine Whiting winners make The New York Times’s notable books list

Elif Batuman, Jeffrey Eugenides, Matthew Klam, Victor LaValle, Alice McDermott, and Danzy Senna had fiction titles listed. Poets Jorie Graham and Layli Long Soldier were featured, and Elena Passarello’s nonfiction collection was highlighted on the list.

Mark Doty is the first Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast

Doty is the first recipient of the fellowship, which honors a “distinguished poet of international repute.” Professor Fran Brearton, Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University, described Doty’s acceptance of the fellowship as an “honor.”

The Economic Times interviews Suketu Mehta

Mehta discusses why rural cities are becoming depopulated, and the problem with data journalism. 

NBC reviews Here in Berlin by Cristina García

NBC writes that García’s latest is her “most striking and profound to date,” and says that the novel serves as an important reminder to confront political demons. 

The Los Angeles Review of Books reviews Here in Berlin by Cristina García

Praising her depiction of city life, the LARB calls Here in Berlin “an impeccable linguistic exercise in narratology and a brilliant exploration of the various identities we adhere to in metropolitan environments.” 

New Work

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.

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." 

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."

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.

The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs by Janet Peery

Peery's novel about the wounds and bonds of familial life follows the Campbell family, who are grappling with their youngest son's addiction. Confronting his addiction requires them to contend with the messiness of all big families, and of life. Jill McCorkle calls Peery's latest "unforgettable." 

Mary Jane by Amy Herzog

Mary Jane is a portrait of a single mother’s relationship with her severely disabled son. As she deals with near-constant crisis, she encounters a cast of women who enable her persistence. The New York Times says "Mary Jane [is] the most profound and harrowing of Ms. Herzog’s many fine plays."

Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides

Eugenides's first story collection presents characters in the midst of personal and national emergencies. A failed poet becomes an embezzler; a high school student takes drastic measures to escape the strictures of her immigrant family. The Los Angeles Review of Books says that Fresh Complaint "showcases the vast breadth of humanity its author can call to life."

Your Healing Is Killing Me by Virginia Grise

Grise's latest is a performance manifesto drawing from experiences with free health clinics, abortion doctors, Marxist artists, and dermatologists. Your Healing Is Killing Me reflects on living with post-traumatic stress disorder and more in our current moment.

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

After the suicide of a young Irish immigrant, an aging nun directs the way forward for his widow and his unborn child. Publishers Weekly calls McDermott's latest "an immense, brilliant novel."