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 LA Review of Books on Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky

"Despite — or even because of — his awareness of suffering, he does not simply offer us joy," writes the journal of Kaminsky's latest collection. "He demands it from us."

"The Match" by Colson Whitehead

"Griff was all of them in one black body that night in the ring, and all of them when the white men took him out back to those two iron rings." Whitehead's upcoming novel, The Nickel Boys, about two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida, is excerpted in The New Yorker.

Review31 interviews Terrance Hayes

"I’m hard to offend and I don’t take offense at any adjectives. The noun is where it’s at! And the verb. Adjectives are seasoning, not things that bother me," Hayes explains. He delves into other topics including making art in the Trump era and the need for universities to expand with culture.

"In Her Shoes: How Pat Summitt and Flo Jo Ascended to Cultural-Icon Status" by Allison Glock

On ESPNW, Glock writes about two of the women who inspired her as a teen, explaining, "These were not women who asked for permission. Who valued manners above passion. These were women lit from within by fires and furies." 

The Boston Globe reviews The Volunteer by Salvatore Scibona

The Boston Globe calls Scibona's latest a "great historical novel" and praises his writing: "These are sentences that are in love with the world and that make us love the world, too." 

The New Yorker interviews Colson Whitehead

In the New Yorker, Whiting winner Colson Whitehead talks about what drew him to the subject for his upcoming novel The Nickel Boys, how much of the real story he used in his book, and more.

"When the Frontier Becomes the Wall" by Francisco Cantú

In the New Yorker, Cantú reflects on what the border wall means for American myth. "Corrective histories reveal the gruesome truths we have long been made to look away from," he writes, "but they rarely show how violence is internalized by its victims." 

NPR interviews Tarell Alvin McCraney

McCraney discusses the importance of writing queer, black narratives, explaining, "If I don't continue to try and write down and pin down the conflicts, the loves, the hates, the things we want most in our — from my community, people can easily say we don't exist."

Catherine Barnett receives The Believer Book Award for Poetry

Barnett received the award for her collection Human Hours. The editors said of her win, "These poems offer the human tenderness and intimacy that are antidotes to the contemporary tendency to avoid vulnerability."

Rowan Ricardo Phillips wins the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing

Phillips received the award for his book The Circuit. The judges remarked, "A book lovingly built for fans and non-fans alike, Phillips is uncommonly generous with the reader, taking time to render the game’s fine points with a ceremonious attention that can only be described as devotion."

The Boston Globe reviews Survival Math by Mitchell S. Jackson

Boston Globe praises the musicality of Jackson's writing, and observes that,  "Now an acclaimed author, Jackson would seem to have made all the right choices. His virtuosic wail of a book reminds us that for a black person in America, it can never be that easy."

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Van der Vliet Oloomi is a finalist for her novel Call Me Zebra. The PEN/Faulkner Award is the country’s largest peer-juried prize for novels and short stories.

Salon interviews Mitchell S. Jackson

Jackson talks about how the #MeToo movement has affected his work, challenging the idea of what it means to be an American, and more.

Passing of Linda Gregg

The Whiting Foundation regrets the passing of accomplished poet Linda Gregg, Whiting 1985, a poet who "use[d] the seen world as a gateway to the richness of inner life." (Tracy K. Smith, The New York Times)

"How to Grant Your Child An Inner Life" by Jess Row

In the New Yorker, Row writes about the struggle of giving children space in the modern age, remarking, "As my children get older, I’m realizing how profoundly my instincts have been shaped by this culture of constant supervision, which wants to believe that it’s the same thing as intimacy."

"How Mitchell S. Jackson Paid the Bills While He Wrote the Books"

On Medium, Jackson shares the nuts and bolts of making a living as a writer. He also shares some of the experiences he had when incarcerated that led him to begin writing, explaining, "Guys in prison are always saying, 'I wish someone would write my life story. It would be a bestseller.' So I thought I’d start writing my life story." 

Public Books interviews Francisco Cantú

Cantú shares some of his thoughts on the current border crisis, and talks about the process of writing his memoir about working for the U.S. Border Patrol. "How do you, as a journalist or as a nonfiction writer, as the one whose name gets stamped on the story," he asks, "how do you lend that authorship to the people whose stories you are telling?"

"In the Way of Stars" by Wayne Koestenbaum

"Gilbert freaks out our eye," writes Koestenbaum, in a piece for Artforum about on how the art of David Gilbert has "changed the way I see ordinary objects."

The Bennington Review interviews Jericho Brown

"I do believe because of what reading a poem can do to me, that a poem can change a life," Brown tells the magazine. "But I’m not under the impression that poems are gonna go out there and suddenly everybody’s gonna vote right."

Barnes & Noble reviews A People's Future of the United States

"There are no easily attainable utopias on offer in A People's Future of the United States, but we catch tantalizing glimpses of possible better tomorrows," writes Barnes & Noble of the "memorable" anthology edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams.

Ploughshares reviews Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li

"Li helps the reader to look directly at grief, to consider other ways of understanding such an enormous loss through the creation of something new," writes the blog of Li's new novel, written shortly after her son's death by suicide.

NPR reviews A People's Future of the United States

"These futures are not easy. But they show us how we too might find ways to live, and live well, no matter what is coming," writes NPR of the science fiction anthology A People's Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams.

"Life's a Beech" by C.D. Wright

In an excerpt from her latest book, published posthumously, Wright delves into deep research on beech trees and the lives that surround them. " "The woman who cuts my hair said a friend of hers was earning big enough money with her smudging feathers to quit her regular job," she writes. "This would be ill-advised back East."

Esmé Weijun Wang interviewed on Literary Hub

Wang talks about bedroom dancing, the importance of a writer's group, and gives her advice for achieving excellency at karaoke: "Enthusiasm makes up for everything else. Go out there and sing your heart out." 

New Work

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."

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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."

A People's Future of the United States edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams

Editors Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams invited an group of writers to share stories that explore new forms of freedom, love, and justice. The result is a collection of twenty-five tales that blend the dark and the light, the dystopian and the utopian. 

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

Esmé Weijun Wang writes of with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, the medical community’s own disagreement about diagnosing those with mental illness, and the examines the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life. Entertainment Weekly calls the collection "utterly unique."