The Berkeley novelist T. Geronimo Johnson has won the Simpson Family Literary Prize, a new award that honors authors in the middle of their careers.
The Bay Area-based prize pays out $50,000, a substantial sum for a literary award.
The other finalists for the prize were Valeria Luiselli, Lori Ostlund and Dana Spiotta.
“T. Geronimo Johnson is a brilliantly inventive, audacious, ever-surprising yet warmly sympathetic chronicler of our turbulent America of the early 21st century,” Joyce Carol Oates, a member of the Simpson Family Literary Project Committee, said in a statement. “His astonishing novel ‘Welcome to Braggsville’ is many things — a satirical vision of ultra-liberal ideals/ illusions, a coming-of-age story tracking the misadventures of four Berkeley undergraduates on a quixotic mission to the Deep South, a lyrically rendered love story with a satisfactorily irresolute ending, a cri de coeur of racial anguish.”
The Simpson Family Literary Prize is overseen by the Simpson Family Literary Project, a private/public partnership of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation and the English Department at UC Berkeley. The project is named in honor of Barclay and Sharon Simpson and their family, philanthropists who help artists, students and underserved children.
“The award will support continued work on a novel that explores the convergence of Afro-futurism; global AI; the economic imperatives that amplify cultural differences; corporate religion (in all manifestations); and tech inequity,” Johnson said. “The question behind this novel is the same question that animates my previous work: How do we learn to care about people who are not like us?”
As a prize winner, Johnson will give readings in the Bay Area in October. He’ll also take part in a two-week residence in Berkeley and Lafayette in 2018.
A native of New Orleans, Johnson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He teaches writing at UC Berkeley.
More information: www.simpsonliteraryproject.org