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The 2021 Windham Campbell Prize winners were announced with great excitement and appreciation last week. The prize is awarded annually to eight authors who write in four categories in English in four categories around the world: fiction, non-fiction, poetry and theater. It is one of the world’s most generous literary prizes, administered by Yale University’s Beincke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Recipients will receive $ 165,000 to support their work.

Commenting on this year’s winners, Michael Kelleher, Director of the Windham Campbell Awards, said: “These exceptional writers cast a forensic eye through original and intensely moving work that challenges what we believe we know about genre and style on the issues that arise from this make us human: our identity, our history, our cultural and political experiences. “

The winners are nominated confidentially and assessed anonymously. Until they get the call that they’ve won the award, recipients won’t know they’ve been considered. This year’s recipients reacted to the news with a mixture of shock and awe. The poet Natalie Scenters-Zapico describes the moment as follows: “When I got the news … I almost burst into tears on the video call. I waited for the moment when they would look through their files and find that they had contacted the wrong person. I can only continue to work on bringing this honor to my literary and border communities. ”

2021 Windham Campbell Prize Winner


Vivian Gornick (United States)

The recipient of non-fiction books Vivian Gornick is a venerated memoir, essayist and literary critic. She is known for her early coverage of the New York City feminist movement in the 1970s for The Village Voice and other publications, as well as for her memoirs, particularly her 1987 memoir of her mother and her childhood in the Bronx, Fierce Attachments. “Vivian Gornick, in her seminal criticism and frank, elegiac, often ruefully humorous memoir, asks us to interrelate the way we think, write, and love by referring to her feminism, intellectual clarity, and radical awareness to fall back on the ability of a personal story enlarge us all. “

Kate Briggs (United Kingdom / Netherlands)

Kate Briggs is a writer and translator – the first female translator to win the award. She has translated among others Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. Her acclaimed debut This Little Art “examines the intricacies of translation and narrative structure in an insightful, provocative way,” the judges put it, and “pushes the formal limits of the literary essay in witty, speculative prose.” In response to the news, she described the award as “the most unexpected gift of freedom and permission. It is extraordinary that at this point in my life as a writer and translator it comes when I have the feeling that I am (still) at the beginning. “

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Dionne Brand (Canada / Trinidad & Tobago)

Dionne Brand is a writer, poet and essayist. She was born in Guayaguayare, Trinidad and moved to Toronto in 1970. She is an important figure in world literature and in Canadian literature. She is Toronto’s third Poet Laureate and has won many of Canada’s top literary awards, including the Governor General’s Prize for Poetry, the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Toronto Book Award. “With genre-rich explorations of narrative form, Dionne Brand pays tribute to the complexity of the diasporic experience and gracefully brings to life the fundamental relationship between politics, aesthetics and love.”

Renee Gladman (United States)

Renee Gladman is the author of numerous books on fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, but best known for her critically acclaimed Ravicka novels, published by Dorothy, A Publishing Project. The novels include Event Factory, The Ravickians, Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge, and Houses of Ravicka. She is also a visual artist and has published two art monographs, One Long Black Set, indexed by Fred Moten and Prose Architectures. “Aesthetically precise and formally daring, Renee Gladman transports us into the land of her imagination and challenges us to puzzle fluently, spatially and meaningfully.”


Canisia Lubrin (St. Lucia / Canada)

Canisia Lubrin is the author of two critically acclaimed poetry collections, Voodoo Hypothesis and The Dyzgraphxst. The judges write: “Canisia Lubrin, which bursts beyond the limits of legibility and the individual, combines oceans, languages ​​and the self, the other and the plural of the first person into a generous baroque project of anti-colonial abundance.” In response to the message Lubrin wrote: “It is impossible to express … what makes it possible to be in such a society at such a disastrous time. This invitation to trust even more deeply, the potential of what has not yet been written is transformative … I will face the world and these alphabets with new strength tomorrow and the day after. “

Natalie Scenters-Zapico (United States)

The poet Natalie Scenters-Zapico comes from the twin cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. In her poetry collections The Verging Cities and Lima :: Limon she explores this area between the USA and Mexico and her “poems transform the violence of gender and cultural stereotypes into songs of resistance, resilience and lyrical grace”. She plans to donate part of the prize money to organizations that help undocumented immigrants in detention centers.


Nathan Alan Davis (United States)

A playwright of numerous critically acclaimed plays dealing with black identities in the American and African diaspora, including The Refuge Plays, The Wind and the Breeze, Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea, and Nat Turner in Jerusalem. He is currently Lecturer in Theater and Berlind Playwright-in-Residence at Princeton University. “Nathan Alan Davis is an artist whose work combines depth of feeling and love for language, balancing the depth, the prose and the overwhelming desire to reach through the fourth wall and draw your audience in.”

Michael R. Jackson (United States)

As a playwright, composer and lyricist, Michael R. Jackson is the first to be awarded a prize to write musical theater. His most recent projects include White Girl in Danger and A Strange Loop, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2020. He has also won a Lambda Literary Award for Drama, a Helen Merrill Award for Dramaturgy, and a Whiting Award. “Michael R. Jackson takes us into a world more alive and malleable than any other we inhabit day to day and empowers musical theater to break free with violent, joyous transgression.”

The Windham-Campbell Prize, administered by the Kniecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University, was the dream of partners Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell. The literary couple had often talked about creating an award to highlight literary achievement and allow writers to focus on their work regardless of financial concerns. When Campbell died unexpectedly in 1988, Windham took responsibility for making her dream come true. The first prizes were announced in 2013. Previous winners include Yiyun Li, Namwali Serpell, Rebecca Solnit, Cathy Park Hong and Teju Cole.