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 New York Times reviews On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

The New York Times praises Vuong's "experimental, highly poetic" novel, writing that "the book is brilliant in the way it pays attention not to what our thoughts make us feel, but to what our feelings make us think."

Jericho Brown is interviewed by "On Being"

On the podcast, Brown talks about how growing up in a black church prepared him to be a poet, and why he believes that "poems are better built out of what we don't understand, not what we do already know, but what we're trying to figure out and better understand."

"Human Being" by Joshua Weiner

In Body journal, a new piece by Weiner explores vividly depicts the passionate embrace of "new lovers joined by the need to be consoled, the need to console.

"Finding Stonewall" by Alexander Chee

Alexander Chee reflects on honoring queer history in the New Republic. "See if you can feel the joy so many have fought and died for," he directs readers, "even if just for a moment, before you go back to fight again."

"Eavesdropping on Ocean Vuong's New Book"

The New York Times talks to Ocean Vuong about his new novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, and why "To read from the book is a second chance. He also delves into his practice of meditating among tombstones and why he believes speaking Vietnamese gives him an advantage as a writer.

"Quick, What's the Word for 'Friendship Sickness'?" by Shane McCrae

In Image Journal, Shane McCrae writes, "I think all writers are inclined towards a degree of lonesomeness. And to a certain extent, this seems healthy to me." He goes on to explore writerly friendships, writing of the difficulty -- and beauty -- in connecting with others.

"Alexander Chee On The Groundbreaking 1937 Novel That 'Changed Something' In Him"

Alexander Chee shares an excerpt from his introduction to a new edition of East Goes West by Younghill Kang, a novel that "has kindled in me something I feel quite powerfully now, a gift from both the poet in the novel and the poet who wrote it," in Buzzfeed.

Tracy K. Smith receives the 2019 Harvard Arts Medal

Smith is the 26th recipient of the Harvard Arts Medal, which is given annually to a graduate or faculty member who has achieved artistic excellence and made a contribution through the arts to education or the public good. Fellow poet, Pulitzer winner, and Whiting winner Jorie Graham introduced Smith as a "singularly glorious practitioner" of the form.

Don Mee Choi is a finalist for the Best Translated Book Awards

Choi is a finalist for her translation from the Korean of poet Kim Hyesoon's collection Autobiography of Death.

"A Man’s Guide to Showing Love in a World That Teaches Him to Demonstrate Dominance"

In a conversation with activist Darnell Moore and social innovation expert Michael Latt, Mitchell S. Jackson dissects the lack of emotion men are expected to project, and the idea that "the oppressors are experts at making us believe we are unworthy of love."

"Mary Karr Thought Her Whiting Award Call Was a Prank and Hung Up"

On Literary Hub, Mary Karr remembers her Whiting Award notification call: "I grabbed my son and squeezed his body to mine and shouted, We won a prize! We went skipping through our small rental, hollering."

superstition [review] interviews Sherwin Bitsui

Of his writing process, Bitsui explains, "I want my work to feel alive at the moment of the reading — I want people to sense they are in the poem with me, witnessing these events as they unfold."

"Photo Retouching Is the Digital Skincare That Equalizes Us All" by Tony Tulathimutte

"When I’m working on a photo," Tulathimutte writes, "I have no interest in making anyone paler or thinner. What I’m doing is more like digital skincare." For VICE, he writes about photo retouching and body image.
 

Catherine Lacey and Shane McCrae receive Guggenheim Fellowships

Congratulations to Catherine Lacey and Shane McCrae, who received 2019 Fellowships in Fiction and Poetry, respectively.

The New York Times profiles Antoinette Nwandu

Antoinette Nwandu is profiled as one of your black playwrights challenging the conventions of theater. Of her attitude toward art, Nwandu says, "It’s going to get really
bleak, but we’re still alive, which means hope is not lost." 

Electric Literature interviews Victor LaValle

LaValle discusses the science fiction anthology he recently co-edited, A People's Future of the United States. Of the non-utopian impulse running through the collection's stories, he explains, "One of the more profound ideas for people is to grapple with the idea that our personal happiness does not necessarily equate to a universal happiness."

Barrelhouse magazine reviews Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky

A reviewer for the magazine reflects on the powerful use of silence in Kaminsky's latest collection, explaining, "As a disabled person myself, it made me think of my disabled body as an instrument of defiance against a world that regards bodies as mere tools or currency."

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi wins the the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award

Van der Vliet Oloomi received the award for her novel Call Me Zebra, which PEN/Faulkner Executive Director Gwydion Suilebhan called "a rare and remarkable work of art" that "makes absolutely clear what a towering moment this is for American fiction.”

"A Skull" by Dana Levin

In new work on Poets.org, Levin mediates on what she dubs "a house/ with a brain inside. Another place/ where eating/ and thinking/ tango and spar."

Alexander Chee in conversation with Masha Gessen, and Barbara Smith 

On Literary Hub, the three Special Honorees of the Lambda Literary Awards discuss their literary influences and writing styles. Of the latter, Chee explains, "There is always a place in the work where you need to let in some mystery and happenstance."

Tracy K. Smith receives the 2019 Anisfield-Wolf Award in Poetry

Smith received the award for her collection Wade in the Water. "She has not only put out a book of her poems during her tenture [as U.S. Poet Laureate]," said Karen Long, Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards manager, "but some of the poems speak to our national moment."

Powell's interviews Nell Freudenberger

Freudenberger describes her experience of writing as "an extension of reading for me, and I knew I was a reader from the moment I learned" and talks to the bookstore about hello fights, advice from Grace Paley's stories, and her new book, Lost and Wanted.

"Correspondence" by Jericho Brown

"I had to go this far in order/ To present myself as a whole being/ You'd heed and believe in," muses Brown in a poem, featured on Literary Hub, from his new collection, The Tradition.

 

 

"Invention" by Jericho Brown

Brown talks about his invention of the duplex, a new poetic form, on Poetry Foundation, explaining, "I wanted a form that in my head was black and queer and Southern. Since I am carrying these truths in this body as one, how do I get a form that is many forms?"

New Work

This Land Is Our Land by Suketu Mehta

Suketu Mehta scrutinizes the worldwide anti-immigrant backlash, explaining how the fear of immigrants is negatively impacting the West. Immigrants, Mehta illustrates, bring great benefits, enabling countires and communities to flourish. 

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Vuong's first novel is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. 

The Volunteer by Salvatore Scibona

A small boy speaking an unknown language is abandoned by his father at an international airport. In order to understand this indefensible decision, the story must return to the moment decades earlier when a young man enlists in the United States Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam and puts in motion an unimaginable chain of events. "Scibona," The New York Times Book Review writes, "has built a masterpiece." 

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown explores fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma, leaving no stone unturned. Craig Morgan Teicher writes, "Brown manages to bestow upon even the most public of subjects the most intimate and personal stakes."

The Spectators by Jennifer duBois

Talk show host Matthew Miller has made his fame by exposing bizarre secrets of society, but remains a mystery. When the high school students responsible for a mass shooting are found to be devoted fans, Mattie is thrust into the glare of public scrutiny. Soon, the secrets of his past push their way to the surface. Kirkus Reviews calls The Spectators "Elegant, enigmatic, and haunting.”

Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger

On an unremarkable Wednesday in June, Helen Clapp, tenured professor at MIT, she gets a phone call from a friend who has just died, her former roommate, Charlie. As Helen is drawn back into Charlie's orbit, she is forced to question the laws of the universe that had always steadied her mind and heart. Rivka Galchen writes, "Lost and Wanted is an extraordinary book, startling in its open curiosity and love."

The Absent Hand: Reimagining Our American Landscape by Suzannah Lessard

Suzannah Lessard latest book is a deep dive into our surroundings―cities, countryside, and sprawl―exploring change in the meaning of place and reimagining the world in a time of transition. Bill McKibben writes, "Reading this book will, no kidding, let you look at the world in a new way, and that is a remarkable gift."

Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky

Deaf Republic opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. The story follows the private lives of deaf townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple expecting a child; the brash director of a puppet theater; and girls who teach signing by day and by night lure soldiers to their deaths. "Kaminsky has created a searing allegory precisely tuned to our times," says NPR of the collection.

Survival Math by Mitchell S. Jackson

Survival Math is an attempt at understanding the antecedents of Jackson’s family’s experience. The narrative is complemented by poems composed from historical documents as well as survivor files, which feature photographs and short narratives of several of Jackson’s male relatives. Survival Math’s reflects on the exigencies—over generations—that have shaped the lives of so many disenfranchised Americans. 

The Gilded Auction Block by Shane McCrae

In The Gilded Auction Block, McCrae considers the present moment in America, the American project, and Americans themselves. He responds directly to Donald Trump and contextualizes him historically and personally, exploring white supremacy in America.

Casting Deep Shade by C.D. Wright

Casting Deep Shade is a passionate, poetic exploration of humanity’s shared history with the beech tree. Before Wright’s unexpected death in 2016, she was deeply engaged in years of ambling research to better know this tree. Her last book demonstrates the power of words to conserve, preserve, and bare witness.

Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li

Yiyun Li meets life’s deepest sorrows as she imagines a conversation between a mother and child in a timeless world. Composed in the months after she lost a child to suicide, Where Reasons End trespasses into the space between life and death as mother and child talk, free from old images and narratives. Andrew Sean Greer calls it "the most intelligent, insightful, heart-wrenching book of our time."