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Nine Writers From Three Countries Win Yale's Prestigious Windham Campbell Literature Prize

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Meredith Miller
/
Beinecke Digital Studio

The Windham Campbell Literary Prizes Festival wrapped up at Yale University last week. Nine prizewinners from around the globe in drama, non-fiction, and fiction were surprised with the prestigious awards that grant them $150,000 each.

The 2015 winners are, in ?ction: Teju Cole, Helon Habila, and Ivan Vladislavi?; in non?ction: Edmund de Waal, Geoff Dyer, and John Jeremiah Sullivan; and, in drama: Jackie Sibblies Drury, Helen Edmundson, and Debbie Tucker Green.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM TALKS WITH TWO OF THIS YEAR'S PRIZE WINNERS

Non-fiction writer, John Jeremiah Sullivan, on the latest iteration of his "reigning obsession" with early African-American music from the 20s and 30s:

“Recently I’ve been working on Mamie Smith, a singer who recorded the first African American popular record, essentially, in 1920—I mean no Mamie, no Beyoncé, no American popular music really  . . . The most exciting part probably for me has been that we located her birthplace in Cincinnati, and miraculously it still exists, the bldg that she was born in, in the 1890s. There’s the surface level significance of its being the home of the blues in a very really way, the birthplace of the blues. A lot of places get called that, this is one that really deserves the title, or deserves to share the title . . . ”

Author Teju Cole on his last two works of fiction, one set in Lagos, Nigeria, one set in New York City:

“Both feature wanderers; they feature a man who is sort of walking around these cities. And through that walking, the stories come into being.

The book about Lagos is called, Everyday is for the Thief, and the book about New York is called, Open City

Open City is set about five years after the 9/11 attacks, and it is really a book about landscape and memory, about mourning and the difficulty of mourning, from the point of view of someone who is only tangentially or atmospherically connected to the awful events of that day, but who still has to sort through what it means to be living as a thoughtful human being in New York City.”

Mark is a former All Things Considered host and former senior editor with WSHU.
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