Eight writers awarded Yale’s Windham-Campbell Prizes

Eight writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama received this year’s international award in recognition of literary achievements or promise.
The 2023 recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prizes.

The 2023 recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prizes. Top row, left to right: Darran Anderson, Percival Everett, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and Jasmine Lee-Jones. Bottom row, left to right: Ling Ma, Dominique Morisseau, dg nanouk okpik, and Susan Williams.

Yale University announced on April 4 the eight recipients of the 2023 Windham-Campbell Prizes. Through their work, the prize recipients explore the personal as well as complex issues of history, sexuality, politics, and culture.

The recipients are, in fiction, Percival Everett (United States) and Ling Ma (United States); in nonfiction, Susan Williams (United Kingdom) and Darran Anderson (Ireland/United Kingdom); in drama, Dominique Morisseau (United States) and Jasmine Lee-Jones (United Kingdom); and in poetry, Alexis Pauline Gumbs (United States) and dg nanouk okpik (Iñupiaq-Inuit).

Reading this year’s recipients excited me because each one taught me new ways of seeing the past, the present, and the future,” Michael Kelleher, director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes, said. “I can’t wait to see what each of them does next.”

The awards will be presented in person in the fall during an annual international literary festival at Yale. This year, recipients will receive $175,000, marking a $10,000 increase from previous years.

Administered by the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, part of the Yale University Library, the Windham-Campbell Prizes are among the world’s most generous and prestigious literary prizes. They are conferred annually to eight writers working in English anywhere in the world. Writers can be awarded the prize during any stage of their careers. Ninety-one writers representing 21 countries across the globe have received the prizes since they were first awarded in 2013.

The recipients, who are nominated confidentially and judged anonymously, don’t know they are being considered for the prize until Kelleher contacts them about the judges’ decision.

Excited is an understatement. I was shocked upon learning of the prize,” said Percival Everett, the author of more than 30 books of fiction and poetry. His novel “Telephone” was a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in fiction.

Fellow fiction recipient Ling Ma has authored two books of fiction: Her novel, “Severance” (2018), and short story collection, “Bliss Montage” (2022), were both named New York Times Notable Books.

London-based writer and historian Susan Williams’s work examines concealed or neglected histories for which much documentary evidence has been destroyed, classified or redacted. Her most recent work, “White Malice: The CIA and the Covert Recolonization of Africa” (2021), moves between Congo and Ghana in the late 1950s and 1960s to shed light on “America’s role in the deliberate violation of democracy” in these newly independent states.

Such an unexpected joy — a rare validation of the struggle to interrogate the global past and to search for truth,” Williams said. “I am deeply grateful for this inspiration to push forward with renewed strength and resolve.”

Darran Anderson is an essayist, journalist, and memoirist who writes at the intersections of culture, politics, urbanism, and technology. His 2020 book, “Inventory,” tells the story of his working-class Catholic childhood in Derry, Northern Ireland during the height of the Troubles.

Dramatist Dominique Morisseau’s works include “The Detroit Project,” a critically acclaimed three-play cycle that draws on the rich histories of Black American literature, music, and activism to create unflinching — and wildly entertaining — dramatic experiences. Morisseau, who is from Detroit, was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for “Ain't Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations” and received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2018.

With all going on in the world, it is beyond joyous to learn that my work and voice matter and I'm being encouraged to continue on,” Morisseau said. “As an artist, the ability to continue to make a living telling stories is vital to my growth and mission in life, and awards like these help to make a pathway for my creativity and passion to thrive. It’s thrilling and inspiring!”

At 24 years old, playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones is the youngest-ever recipient of a Windham-Campbell Prize. She burst on the global theater scene in 2019 with her debut play, “seven methods of killing kylie jenner,” which follows Cleo, a self-proclaimed Twitter activist, and her best friend Kara as they negotiate their increasingly entangled offline and online identities. Her sophomore play, “Curious” (2021), explores the racial politics of performance in Britain from the 18th century to the present.

Poet Alexis Pauline Gumbs, an activist, critic, scholar, and educator, uses hybrid forms to re-envision old narratives and engage with the history of Black intellectual-imaginative work. Her four books of prose-poetry are “Dub: Finding Ceremony” (2020), “Undrowned” (2020), “M Archive” (2018), and “Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity” (2016).

An Iñupiaq-Inuit poet from south-central Alaska, dg nanouk okpik’s work opens readers to a complex web of culture, ecology, and myth. Her debut collection of poetry, “Corpse Whale” (2012), received the American Book Award in 2013. Her latest collection, “Blood Snow,” was published in 2020. Former United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo has described okpik’s work as “at once surprising and prophetic, ceremonial and disruptive.”

I’m as excited as a thousand marmots running in the tundra!” okpik said of being named a recipient of a Windham-Campbell Prize.

The prizes were established in 2013 through a gift from Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy Campbell. For years, the couple had discussed 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. 

Biographies of the recipients and additional background on the prizes available on the Windham-Campbell Prizes website.

Share this with Facebook Share this with X Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this

Media Contact

Allison Bensinger: allison.bensinger@yale.edu,