All Eyes on their Prizes

Houston Author Bryan Washington Wins Another Major Book Award

Plus three Houston-connected writers win Pulitzers.

By Emma Schkloven May 14, 2020

Houston writer Bryan Washignton made a splash last year with success of his evocative, Bayou City-centric story collection, Lot —a literary debut that was included in both The New York Times’ 10 Best Books of 2019 and President Barack Obama’s annual favorite books of the year list and earned him the O. Henry Award and Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.

Now, he’s added another award to his ever-growing list of accomplishments. Today, Swansea University announced that Washington has received this year’s Dylan Thomas Prize, one of the leading literary awards presented to young writers. In addition to bringing international prestige, the Dylan Thomas Prize comes with a prize of 30,000 euros (or about $36,500).

“It's a gift whenever an audience gives you the time of day for a story, whatever that is, let alone to be acknowledged for your work on such a massive platform,” Washington said in a statement. “And it's an honor to tell stories about the communities that are dear to me, and the communities that I live among—marginalized communities, communities of color, and queer communities of color, specifically.”

Washington, whose upcoming first novel, Memorial, arrives in October, isn’t the only Houston-connected to writer to have won it big in the literary world this month.

Rice University history professor Caleb McDaniel won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for History for his book about Henrietta Wood, a slave who survived kidnapping and re-enslavement to go on and sue her captor; Bayou City native Benjamin Moser won the award in the biography category for his 800-page tome on Susan Sontag; and Jericho Brown, an alum of University of Houston’s creative writing program, received the Pulitzer for poetry for his book The Tradition.

There must be something in the water.

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