Novelist Chris Abani, an associate professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, is the winner of the the 2005 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction for his novel Graceland. The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award is the first national award presented to published writers of African descent by the national community of Black writers. Awards are worth $10,000 each and honor books by writers of African descent.
The winners in other categories are Maryse Conde, Who Slashed Celanire's Throat (Fiction), Alexis De Veaux, Warrior Poet (Nonfiction), and Tracy Price-Thompson, A Woman's Worth (Contemporary fiction).
The winners were announced November 1, 2005 at a ceremony in New York City.
GraceLand, published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is the story of Elvis, a teenage Elvis Presley impersonator struggling in the swampy underworld of Lagos, Nigeria, to find a way out of the ghetto where he was born. Abani steeps Elvis in rhythms of reggae and jazz and images from American film and popular culture.
"Chris Abani has become a favorite professor among our students, for his innovative techniques in teaching," said Susan Straight, a colleague in creative writing. "He has students listen to music, build houses of cards, and think about the structures of poetry and fiction. He is truly gifted as a poet and novelist, and we're thrilled to have him teaching here."
Chris Abani's poetry collections include Dog Woman (Red Hen, 2004), Daphne's Lot (Red Hen, 2003) and Kalakuta Republic (Saqi, 2001).
For more information about The Hurston/Wright Foundation and this years awardees, please visit http://www.hurston-wright.org/legacy_award.html.
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