Baton Rouge, La. Houston writer Bryan Washington’s debut book, “Lot,” a collection of short stories, has been named winner of the 2019 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.
The award will be presented to Washington on January 30, 2020 at the Manship Theatre at the Shaw Center for the Arts in downtown Baton Rouge. The ceremony is free and open to the public, although reservations are requested at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now in its 13th year, the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence is a nationally acclaimed $15,000 prize given annually by Baton Rouge Area Foundation donors to recognize outstanding work from promising African-American fiction writers, while honoring the late Louisiana native Ernest Gaines’ extraordinary contribution to the literary world.
Gaines died November 5, 2019 at his home in Oscar, La., at the age of 86.
“Lot” is set in the city of Houston, particularly its East End. The narrator is a young man who often doesn’t feel at home in his hometown and keenly watches others as they desperately struggle or thrive.
Washington’s fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Boston Review, and other publications. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Houston and a master’s in creative writing from the University of New Orleans. He is a lecturer at Rice University.
A national panel of judges selects the book award winner. Judges for the 2019 contest are Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2003 novel, “The Known World”; Anthony Grooms, a critically acclaimed author and creative writing professor at Kennesaw State University; renowned author Elizabeth Nunez, professor of English at Hunter College-City University of New York; Francine Prose, author of more than 20 books, including “Blue Angel,” a nominee for the 2000 National Book Award; and Patricia Towers, former features editor for O, The Oprah Magazine and a founding editor of Vanity Fair magazine.
Previous winners of the Ernest J. Gaines award include Jamel Brinkley for “A Lucky Man,” Crystal Wilkinson for “Birds of Opulence,” T. Geronimo Johnson for “Welcome to Braggsville,” Attica Locke for “The Cutting Season,” Stephanie Powell Watts for “We Are Taking Only What We Need” and Dinaw Mengestu for “How to Read the Air.”
Literary legend Ernest Gaines was a native of Louisiana’s Pointe Coupee Parish, which served as the backdrop in many of his novels. He received a
National Medal of Arts (2013), a MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant, and the National Humanities Medal among numerous other awards. He was a member of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His critically acclaimed novel “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” was adapted into a made-for-TV movie that won nine Emmy awards. His 1993 novel “A Lesson Before Dying” won the National Book Critics Circle Award.