New York – January 20, 2016 – The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced that writers Adam Haslett and Jesmyn Ward will each receive the Academy’s prestigious Strauss Living of $200,000. Awarded for literary excellence, the Livings provide for a $100,000 annual distribution to each writer for a period of two years, the intent being to provide them the freedom to devote time exclusively to writing. Recipients of the Livings agree to forgo positions of paid employment during the award’s two-year term.
Haslett and Ward were selected by a committee of members of the Academy: Ann Beattie, Don DeLillo, Allan Gurganus, and Joy Williams. The jurors read the works of an extensive list of writers who were nominated by the 250 members of the Academy. On behalf of her fellow jurors, Joy Williams commented,
“Jesmyn Ward’s work, profoundly engaging and necessary, possesses great strength and a dire beauty. Adam Haslett’s presciently political and freshly emotional acumen in his stories and novels is impressive. This is an important award for two wonderful important writers.”
Funded through a bequest by Harold and Mildred Strauss, the Livings were established in 1983 to benefit two writers of English prose literature. Harold Strauss, who died in 1975, was the editor-in-chief of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. for many years. He is best known for publishing the early works of John Steinbeck and for introducing important Japanese writers to Western readers. Previous holders of the Livings were Cynthia Ozick and Raymond Carver (in 1983), Diane Johnson and Robert Stone (in 1988), John Casey and Joy Williams (in 1993), Marilynne Robinson and W.D. Wetherell (in 1998), Gish Jen and Claire Messud (in 2003) and Madison Smartt Bell and William T. Vollmann (in 2008).
Adam Haslett was born in Rye, New York in 1970. He was educated at Swarthmore College, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Yale Law School. Haslett is the author of the story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here (2002), and the novels Union Atlantic (2010), and Imagine Me Gone (2016). Haslett has written for many publications, including the Financial Times, Der Spiegel, Esquire, The Nation, The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and New York Magazine. His short stories have been included in O’Henry Prize Stories, and Best American Short Stories.
Mr. Haslett’s honors have included the Berlin Prize, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Lambda Literary Award for Union Atlantic, and Rockefeller Foundation and Guggenheim fellowships. His You Are Not a Stranger Here was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book award finalist. His work has been translated into eighteen languages. He has taught at Columbia University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Mr. Hazlett resides in New York City.
Upon learning of his award, Haslett responded, “I’m deeply grateful to have received this remarkable award from the American Academy, and particularly honored to have been given it by a committee of four writers whom I could not admire more. Their vote of confidence and the Academy’s support is a great boon to my work and life as a writer.
Jesmyn Ward was born in Berkeley, CA in 1977. She received undergraduate and master’s degrees from Stanford University and an M.F.A. from the University of Michigan. Ward is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University.
She is the author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds (2008) and Salvage the Bones (2011). Salvage the Bones won the 2011 National Book Award, and was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her memoir, Men We Reaped (2013), won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, a Media for a Just Society Book Award, and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Nonfiction Award. It was named one of the best books of 2013 by The New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Time, and Vogue. Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi, where she lives now.
“I’m deeply honored and humbled to receive the Strauss Living. Time to write is essential for authors, and this award has given me this luxury for two years! I am so grateful,” commented Ward upon learning of the award.