2016 Winners

Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas (Nonfiction)

Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas is completing her first book, Don’t Come Back, to be published by Mad River Books, an imprint of The Ohio State University Press, in January 2017. A collection of essays, short stories, and translations, it navigates the Colombian civil conflict with a personal investigation into her own life, family and mixed heritage. Her nominator writes, “What I find most astounding about her work is how she confronts head-on the hazy space between languages, and the beauty and challenges of a life lived always in translation. She creates a wholly unique narrative weaving her personal history into political commentary and ancient mythology, conveying an intimate, dynamic portrait of Colombia.” Ms. Ferreira received her B.A. from Brigham Young University and M.F.A.s in literary translation and creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa. Her essays have appeared in Hotel Amerika, Brevity, and Fourth Genre, among others. She is currently a visiting assistant professor of creative nonfiction at The Ohio State University and the executive nonfiction editor of Drunken Boat, an international journal of literature and the arts. She is working on a novel about the devil and a second nonfiction book titled The Former New Kingdom of Granada. She says, “My goal is to take a closer look at the intersection of personal and national histories: probing pivotal events and relating them back to broader discussions of violence, language, class, gender, race, and displacement.” She will use her Writer’s Award to take a research trip to Colombia and to cover living expenses over the next two years to be able to complete these two nonfiction projects. She lives in Columbus, Ohio.


Danielle Geller (Nonfiction)

Danielle Geller is working on a memoir called Dog Flowers. Her nominator writes, “I see her as a writer of original and compelling prose with a wrenching story to tell about the diaspora of her Navajo family. Despite the weight of history her story carries, she writes with a distanced emotional intelligence that is truly arresting.” Ms. Geller received her B.A. from Shippensburg University, her M.S. in library science from Simmons College, and is finishing her M.F.A. at the University of Arizona, Tucson. In her unpublished essay, “Annotating the First Page of the First Navajo-English Dictionary,” she masterfully uses her skills as a researcher and archivist to investigate the history of the incomplete Navajo-English Dictionary published in 1958 by weaving through it the story of her mother and her people. She plans to use this essay as the genesis for her second book. She writes, “I could begin and end here. My mother was a full-blooded Navajo woman, raised on the reservation, but she was never taught to speak her mother’s language. There was a time when most words were better left unspoken. Still, I am drawn to the nasal vowels and slushy consonants, though I feel no hope of ever learning the language. It is one thing to play dress-up, to imitate pronunciations and understanding; it is another thing to think or dream or live in a language not your own.” Ms. Geller plans to use her Writer’s Award to help supplement her income in her final year of graduate school so she can focus on these projects. She will also take several research trips to the Navajo reservation to interview her mother’s family and friends. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Jamey Hatley (Fiction)

Jamey Hatley is working on her first novel, The Dream-Singers. It is the story of twins, one born at the moment Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers his final speech and the other at the moment King dies. After the devastation of the assassination, the people in an all-black neighborhood of Memphis fixate on the babies as a symbol of hope. Their hope is short-lived when the boy twin dies under mysterious circumstances just three months later. Her nominator writes, “Reading her work is like witnessing past, present, and future on one page. She creates a very convincing community and voice through her use of fable.” Ms. Hatley has recently returned to her hometown of Memphis to care for her elderly parents. She says, “So many of the themes that were already present in my novel have become starkly real since my return: dreams as debt, who gets to leave home and who must stay, the responsibility to home and collective amnesia. It attempts to interrogate the cliché to ‘just follow your dreams’ and reveal what a complex proposition that is for a community where one of the most famous dreamers of all time is killed.” Her work has appeared in Callaloo, The Account, and Oxford American, among others. She has attended Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference for the past five years and is the recipient of a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She received her B.S. from the University of Tennessee, her M.A. in journalism from the University of Memphis, and her M.F.A. from Louisiana State University. Ms. Hatley plans to use her Writer’s Award to cover living expenses during the next year so she can write fulltime and complete her novel. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee.


Ladee Hubbard   (Fiction)

Ladee Hubbard’s vibrant, smart, and funny first novel tells the story of the Ribkins family, each member of which is born with a unique talent: one can see in the dark, one can pick any lock, another can make intricate maps from memory of anything he sees. Ms. Hubbard says, “Riffing on W.E.B. Dubois’s famous essay about the need to cultivate a black leadership class, The Talented Tenth is structured as a road novel that combines elements of the picaresque and the noble quest. The book is conceived as an allegory of African-American life during the second half of the twentieth century and looks at the meaning of talent, its relation to notions of African-American mobility, and its role in the mediation of responsibility to a wider community.” “It is an amazing book,” says her nominator. “Inventive and surreal but edged with truth and real pain.” Ms. Hubbard’s work has appeared in the Beloit Fiction Journal, Crab Orchard Review, and others, and she has received fellowships from the Hambidge Center, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, and the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Ms. Hubbard received a B.A. from Princeton, an M.F.A. from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, a Ph.D. from UCLA, and most recently an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her Writer’s Award will allow her to take time off from teaching, pay for child care, and devote her full attention to completing her novel. She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband and three children.

Airea D. Matthews (Poetry)

Airea D. Matthews’s first collection of poems, simulacra, received the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award (Yale University Press, 2017). Her nominator writes, “Airea’s poems inhabit worlds within worlds, small moments of clarity and composure that push against the chaos of a busy existence. She breaks free of conventional narrative arcs in her work. In her own words she says, ‘Linearity is overrated. I’ve known some degree of chaos my entire life. There were never any zones in my childhood and adolescence that were free of perturbations, turbulence or risk.’” Her work has appeared in Best American Poets 2015, American Poet, Four Way Review, The Indiana Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review, among others. She has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Kresge Literary Arts, Callaloo, Cave Canem, and will be a James Merrill House resident next summer. She received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, her M.P.A. from the University of Michigan, and her M.F.A. from the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program, where she is now the assistant director. Ms. Matthews is working on her second collection, which explores the theme of poverty. She writes, “under/class seeks to understand how poverty shapes us behaviorally, culturally, and geographically and how the liminal boundaries between classes are so thin as to be invisible. I am obsessed with the idea of returning, whether it’s to a space or condition.” Ms. Matthews will use her Writer’s Award to take a leave from work and pay for household expenses and child care so she can work on her new manuscript fulltime. She lives in Detroit, Michigan, with her husband and four children.

Asako Serizawa (Fiction)

Asako Serizawa is working on a collection of interconnected short stories, Allegiance, that spans over a century and traces four generations of a family fractured and fragmented by the Second World War. She says, “Written from myriad perspectives, and set in multiple locations in colonial and post-colonial Asia and the U.S., the collection is meant to kaleidoscopically explore the human consequences of imperialism and war and their enduring impact on our multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural lives.” Ms. Serizawa was born in Japan and spent her pre-college life in Tokyo, Singapore, and Jakarta. She received her B.A. from Tufts University, her M.A. from Brown University, and her M.F.A. from Emerson College. Her work has appeared in Witness, The Hudson Review, The Antioch Review, and elsewhere. She has received two O. Henry Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, and the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award for her short fiction. A recent fiction fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, she has also received support from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation and Vermont Studio Center. Her nominator writes, “Her project is a vital one, an interrogation of both countries’ histories. She traces the Japanese citizens who lost World War II and are living under American military occupation and navigates their tricky emotional landscape of shock and chagrin, bafflement and shame. Asako is an unflinching writer of moral precision. There are images in her work that I will never forget.” Ms. Serizawa hopes to use her Writer’s Award to make a research trip to Japan and write fulltime with the aim of completing her collection over the next several months. She lives with the writer Matthew Modica in Boston.