Whiting Awards

Since 1985, the Foundation has supported creative writing through the Whiting Awards, which are given annually to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama.

News & Reviews

“The Ineradicable Color-Line: Danzy Senna’s New People

The Los Angeles Review of Books delves into Du Bois’s theory of visible racism, Danzy Senna’s New People, and what happens when the body becomes an “inconsistently locked home.” 

Alexander Chee receives the Paul Engle Prize

Presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization, the $10,000 award honors a writer with a “pioneering spirit in the world of literature.” Chee is the sixth recipient of the award. 

“In Memoriam” by Safiya Sinclair

Inspired by Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colussus,” Sinclair’s ode to America laments, “White is a state of mind. Spangled. Blinding,/ Shining sky awash in all its shining.”

DC Theatre Scene reviews Wig Out! By Tarell Alvin McCraney

DC Theatre Scene calls McCraney’s play about African American drag ball culture “beautiful, raw, and real.” 

“I Got a Rapper to Take Me to McDonald’s in His Limo” by Danzy Senna

In Lenny Letter, Danzy Senna remembers what it was like to be a teenager in 1985 – big hoop earrings, cigarette budgets, and a disapproving mother – and recalls her sister reading Doug E. Fresh’s palm in a hotel bedroom. 

Wildness reviews In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae

The new literary magazine from Platypus Press discusses the importance of naming in McCrae’s collection, writing “Shane demonstrates the way whiteness writes itself into a false sense of safety.”

“How to Get Over an Aversion to Whiskey” by Matthew Klam

In the Wall Street Journal, Klam learns to like – or at least tolerate – whiskey, a drink he had previously deemed “like old socks soaked in gasoline.” 

Electric Literature reviews The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Electric Literature says LaValle’s latest novel about the horrors of fatherhood is a “masterpiece” that will “haunt your dreams.”

 The New York Times reviews Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam

The Times praises Klam’s ability to make a well-documented topic – a middle-aged male artist having an affair – seem fresh, and writes that Klam’s new novel “feels like a little miracle.” 

“America Today, In Vision and Verse”

In The New York Times, six photographers share work inspired by American poems, including “’N’em” by Jericho Brown and “Ladies’ Arm Wrestling Match at the Blue Diner” by Jenny Johnson. 

Vulture reviews The Answers by Catherine Lacey

Christian Lorentzen delves into themes of love, anxiety, and innocence in Lacey’s new novel, which he writes are “managed by Lacey to woozy and disquieting effect.” 

“Magic Banana” by Chris Offutt

In the Oxford American, Offutt writes about pre-packaged biscuits, pre-sliced bananas, and why chefs are like magicians. 

“An Old Story” by Tracy K. Smith

In a new poem for The Nation, United States poet laureate Tracy K. Smith tells a story of familiar sorrow, and unexpected hope. 

“The United States Welcomes You” by Tracy K. Smith

“What are you demanding/ That we feel? Have you stolen something?” In a poem for The Nation, Smith interrogates the experience of being an immigrant in America.

An excerpt from Victor LaValle’s The Changeling

In the latest novel from horror-master LaValle, new father Apollo Kagwa navigates the dark corners of NYC in a world where “the wildness had only begun.” 

USA Today reviews The Changeling by Victor LaValle

USA Today reviews LaValle’s modern-day fairytale about a new dad who shares too many pictures of his son on social media, calling the novel “creepily good” and giving it four out of four stars. 

The Rumpus interviews Tony Tulathimutte

Tulathimutte talks about why empathy is “overrated” in the literary community and the rhetorical tools that “make language effective.”

“The Harlem He Knew” by Darryl Pinckney

In the New York Review of Books, Pinckney unpacks the life of "vagabond poet" Claude McKay, who left Jamaica for Harlem and never went back. 

Review31 on The Idiot by Elif Batuman

Review31 applauds the depth with which Batuman tackles her young characters, writing that her compassion helps the novel defy convention. 

Three poems by Joshua Weiner

Body journal features three poems by Weiner exploring themes of intimacy, including a new translation of Goethe.

 “Here's Why Denis Johnson Was the Last Truly Great Gonzo War Correspondent”

On The Daily Beast, writer Jeremy Kryt remembers his former teacher’s devotion to reportage, and shares some of the writing advice that Johnson gave him. 

Identity Theory interviews Major Jackson

Jackson discusses the implications of the increasing role of technology in our lives, and why he believes that “if you want to get to know a people, you look at the poems they’ve written.” 

The New York Times reviews The Answers by Catherine Lacey

Dwight Garner praises Lacey’s “intricately detailed” world, and declares that Lacey is “the real thing, and in The Answers she takes full command of her powers.”

“Denis Johnson’s Lasting Advice”

In the New Yorker, writer David Means remembers his experience in Denis Johnson’s class at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. “I felt,” he writes, “in the immediate presence of humility.”

Publications & Productions

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

In what GQ calls "the funniest book of the year," the year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. At the end of the school year, Selin heads to Hungary to teach English, journeying further inside herself to come to grips with first love and becoming a writer. 

New People by Danzy Senna

Maria and Khalil are the perfect couple, "King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom." They're starring in a documentary about "new people" blurring the old boundaries. Everything Maria knows she should want lies before her -- yet she can't stop daydreaming about another man, dredging up dangerous secrets from the past. "Everyone should read it," writes Vogue

The Answers by Catherine Lacey

Plagued by bizarre symptoms, Mary Parsons seeks relief from a holistic treatment. To cover the cost, Mary lands a job as Emotional Girlfriend in the “Girlfriend Experiment”―the brainchild of an infamous actor, Kurt Sky. With so little to lose, Mary falls headfirst into Kurt’s ego-driven simulacrum of human connection. The New York Times calls Lacey "the real thing."

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Vulture says horror fans "can't miss" LaValle's latest novel, about Apollo, who's settling into his new life as a parent. When his wife commits a horrific act and vanishes, Apollo travels to a forgotten island, a graveyard full of secrets, and a forest trying to solve the mystery.

Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam

At an arts conference in New England, once-famous cartoonist Rich finds himself trying not to think about his failing career and the shameless shenanigans of his colleagues. Is his own very real desire for love and human contact going to rescue or destroy him? Jennifer Egan calls Klam's latest "an electric amalgam of frustration and tenderness."

Autobiography of a Terrorist by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

Sayrafiezadeh's play, starring a character named Saïd, explores growing up Iranian and Jewish-American during the Iran hostage crisis. As he and his well-meaning collaborators try to stage his script, things go quickly and hilariously from bad to worse, leading Saïd to wonder if he will ever be able to fit in. 

Sorrow Bread by Mark Cox

In this collection, poems selected from Cox's thirty-year career converse with each other across books and across time. They explore essential connections--one's relationship to poetic tradition, the reader, the natural world, other lives, language itself. 

Winter Hill by Timberlake Wertenbaker

Set in Bolton, in the near future, Winter Hill centers on a group of eight local women as they deal with the ramifications of land on nearby Winter Hill being sold to developers to create a luxurious skyscraper hotel. Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new play explores how a group of seemingly ordinary women endeavour to protect their local community, no matter the cost.

Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello

Beginning with Yuka, a 39,000 year old mummified woolly mammoth, each of the essays in Animals Strike Curious Poses investigates a different famous animal named and immortalized by humans. "This book will leave little doubt that Passarello is one our country’s most gifted young prose writers," writes Héctor Tobar.

Late Arcade by Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey’s Late Arcade opens in Los Angeles and details Jazz musicians and artist invention. Bookforum calls the Jazz novel's lyricism "exquisite."

WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier

WHEREAS confronts the language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribe. Booklist writes that the collection is “searingly intelligent, masterfully crafted, and unarguably important." 

Vang by Mary Swander

Vang is based on Swander's research into recent Iowa immigrant farmers. Through interviews and photographs, Swander has created a play about the struggles, survival skills, and connection to the land of Hmong, Mexican, Sudanese and Dutch immigrants.