photo of Mia Chung by Chelcie Parry; Photo of Ama Codjoe by David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York; Photo of Marcia Douglas by Patrick Campbell; photos of everyone else by Willy Somma/The Whiting Foundation
The winners of the 2023 Whiting Awards may not have many well-known titles to their name, but that’s the point.
The recipients of the $50,000 prize, which were announced Wednesday night, show outsized talent and promise, according to the prize judges. The Whiting Awards aim to “recognize the excellence and promise of a range of emerging talent, giving most winners their first chance to devote themselves full-time to their own writing or take bold new risks in their work,” the Whiting Foundation noted in a press release.
The Whiting Awards are one of the most esteemed and important monetary gifts for emerging writers. Since its founding in 1985, recipients such as Ocean Vuong, Colson Whitehead, Sigrid Nunez, Alice McDermott, Jia Tolentino and Ling Ma have propelled themselves into successful careers or won countless other prestigious awards including Pulitzers, National Book Awards and Tony Awards. .
“Each year we look to new Whiting Award winners, writing fearlessly at the edge of the imagination, to reveal the ways of our thought and deed before we know them ourselves,” said Courtney Hodell , director of literary programs. “The award is intended to create a comfortable space in which such transformative work can be done.”
The ceremony will include a keynote address by Pulitzer Prize winner and PEN President Ayad Akhtar.
The winners of the 2023 Whiting Awards, with commentary from the Whiting Foundation, are:
Tommy Blount (poetry), including the collection, Fantasy for the man in blue“immerses himself in the characters like a miner with a headlamp; desire, wit and a dose of menace temper his precision.”
Mia Chung (drama), playwright Catch as catch can, whose plays are “a theatrical gallery of mirrors that catches and fractures layers of sympathy and trust”.
Ama Codjoe (poetry), author of bluest nudewhose poems “bring folk ero and lyrical precision to the experience of black women.“
Marcia Douglas (fiction), author of The marvelous equations of dreadwhich “creates a speculative ancestral project that samples and remixes the living and the dead in a startling sonic fabric”.
Sidik Fofana (fiction), author of Stories from ground floor tenantswho “hears voices with the keen ear of a journalist but records them with the unguarded heart of a fiction writer”.
Caribbean Fragoza (fiction), author of Eat the mouth that feeds youwhose short stories “blend gothic horror with the beloved and felt rhythms of ordinary life, uncovering the complex interiority of its chicanx characters”.
R.Kikuo Johnson (fiction), author of Nobody elsea writer and illustrator – the first graphic novelist to be awarded the prize – who “sews a soft seam along the frayed edges of three generations in a family in Hawaii”.
Linda Kinstler (non-fiction), a contributing writer for The Economist’s Review of 1843whose reporting “is bristling with eagerness, moving like the spy thrillers to which she takes her hat off”.
Stephanie Taladrid (non-fiction), a contributing writer to the New Yorker, who, “writing with still eye at the center of controversy or spiraling upheaval, she finds and protects the unforgettable human – whether in an abortion clinic by day Roe vs. Wade is overthrown or testifies to the pain of Uvalde’s grieving parents.”
Emma Wiperman (poetry and theatre), author of the next Joan of Arkansas, “an anxiety-provoking work marked not by didacticism but by sympathy; He conveys rapture even though he jokes with the angels…”