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Side by side headshots of Davis and Jackson.
Nathan Alan Davis and Michael R. Jackson.

Nathan Alan Davis, Michael R. Jackson Among 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize Honorees

The annual award honors English-language writers from all over the world who are at any stage of their careers.

NEW HAVEN, CONN.: The recipients of this year’s Windham-Campbell Prize, which honors English-language writers at every stage of their careers from all over the world, have been announced. Among this year’s honorees are playwright Nathan Alan Davis (Nat Turner in Jerusalem, Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea) and musical theatre writer Michael R. Jackson (A Strange Loop, White Girl in Danger).

Rounding out this year’s group of eight writers are Dionne Brand (fiction), Renee Gladman (fiction), Kate Briggs (nonfiction), Vivian Gornick (nonfiction), Canisia Lubrin (poetry), and Natalie Scenters-Zapico (poetry).

“Through original and intensely moving work that challenges what we think we know about genre and style, these extraordinary writers cast a forensic eye on the issues that make us human: our identity, our history, our cultural and political experiences,” said Michael Kelleher, director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes, in a statement. “We are incredibly proud to recognize and celebrate such exceptional literary talent.”

This annual award, announced by Yale University and administered by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, honors writers for their literary achievement or promise and awards them with $165,000 to support their work. In a statement, Davis called this “a truly life-changing moment; I am profoundly thankful.”

Recipients are nominated confidentially and judged anonymously. They are not informed they are being considered for the prize until contacted about the decision from the judges. A video of the recipients reacting to the news is available here and short videos from each recipient are available here.

“Words cannot adequately express what an honor and thrill it is to be the first musical theatre writer recipient of the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize,” said Jackson in a statement. “In a culture preoccupied with ‘representation’ and ‘content creation,’ this award feels like a validation of my preoccupation with pushing the boundaries of form as I attempt to untangle some of the deeper questions and contradictions of our rapidly changing world.”

First announced in 2013, the prizes are the brainchild of lifelong partners Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell. The couple, deeply involved in literary circles and authors of various works themselves, discussed for years the idea of creating an award highlighting literary achievement and providing writers the opportunity to focus on their work separate from financial concerns. After Campbell’s unexpected death in 1988, Windham took on the responsibility for making the prize a reality.

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