Booker shortlistee and UK playwright among winners of Windham-Campbell prizes | Books

Booker prize-shortlisted author Percival Everett and Iñupiaq-Inuit poet dg nanouk okpik are among the recipients of this year’s Windham-Campbell prizes.

The prizes are awarded to eight writers each year for literary achievement across four categories – fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama. Each recipient receives $175,000 (£140,000); this is up $10,000 from last year.

Joining Everett and okpik are playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones, who at 25 is the youngest ever winner in the awards. Also on the list are novelist Ling Ma, writers Susan Williams and Darran Anderson, playwright Dominique Morisseau and poet Alexis Pauline Gumbs.

Michael Kelleher, director of the prizes, said that “reading this year’s recipients excited me because each one taught me new ways of seeing the past, the present, and the future”.

Everett and Ma were awarded the prizes for fiction. Everett’s The Trees was shortlisted for the Booker in 2022, and he is the author of more than 30 works of fiction and poetry. The prize’s selection committee, which is anonymous, said that Everett’s “virtuosic body of work exemplifies fiction’s capacity for play, vigilance, and compassion for life’s precarity in an uncertain world”.

Fellow American novelist Ma published her debut Severance in 2018, and followed up with a short story collection, Bliss Montage, in 2022. The committee said she “meditates on urban anomie with wry humour and subversive imagination, brilliantly bending and blending genre to plumb the depths of her characters’ origins, displacement, and alienation”.

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Jasmine Lee-Jones. Photograph: Windham-Campbell prize

London-based Williams was awarded the prize for nonfiction. The committee said she “chronicles imperial legacies with a forensic eye, a historical mind and a decolonial sensibility for African agency; her findings are as stunning as they are transformative”.

Irish essayist, journalist, and memoirist Anderson was recognised for his writing at the intersections of culture, politics, urbanism and technology. The prize committee said he “gives voice to the testimony of objects and geographies, chronicling the passage of individual memory as it turns into a community’s archive and sustaining myth”.

Lee-Jones, a playwright from London, wrote Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner, and was rewarded by the prize for her “powerfully original storytelling and voice on contemporary culture”. The committee said her work was “fierce, fresh and funny” and her “iconoclastic plays reinvigorate the vernacular of contemporary theatre for a new generation”.

Tony-nominated Morisseau’s body of work includes a number of plays and the Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, as well as story editing for the American version of the TV show Shameless. The selection committee said the “nuanced characters and trenchant stories in [her] plays strike at the heart of the most pressing conversations facing African Americans today, embodying a steadfast belief in the transformative power of love and art”.

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Ain’t Too Proud on Broadway. Photograph: Stephen Lovekin/Rex/Shutterstock

Gumbs is an award-winning US activist, critic, poet, scholar and educator. The committee said her “luminous, visionary poetry … emerges from urgent realities of the present and haunting voices of the past to imagine alternative worlds shaped by radical listening, compassion and love”.

okpik is the first Iñupiaq-Inuit writer to receive a Windham-Campbell prize, for her “astonishing achievement … and great promise”. Her debut collection Corpse Whale won an American Book award. The committee said her “lapidary poems sound the depths of language and landscape, shuttling between the ancient past and imperilled present of Inuit Alaska in a searching meditation on ecology and time”.

The Windham-Campell prizes were the brainchild of lifelong partners Donald Windham and Sandy M Campbell, who discussed the idea of creating an award to highlight literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns. When Campbell died unexpectedly in 1988, Windham took on the responsibility for making this shared dream a reality. The first prizes were announced in 2013.

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