Penguin Random House: Danielle Evans Wins the 2021 Joyce Carol Oates Prize

Danielle Evans, author of THE OFFICE OF HISTORICAL CORRECTIONS: A Novella and Stories (Riverhead Books), has been named the 2021 Joyce Carol Oates Prize winner by the New Literary Project (formerly the Simpson Literary Project). The $50,000 prize, which honors a distinguished mid-career author of fiction, has been bestowed annually since 2017.

Ms. Evans will appear under the auspices of the New Literary Project as part of San Francisco Bay Area events during 2021–2022, and she will take up short-term residency at University of California Berkeley during the Spring Semester of 2022. She will also be featured in a virtual Meet the Joyce Carol Oates Prize Winner event on May 5 at 7:00 PM (ET) in conversation with Joyce Carol Oates, co-hosted by the Project and the Lafayette Library and Learning Center. To register, here.

Congratulations to Ms. Evans, her editor, Sarah McGrath, and the entire Riverhead team.

“Danielle Evans has more to teach us than we may be prepared to learn,” said Joseph Di Prisco, Chair of the New Literary Project. “Her subtle control of character and language enthralls us, and her stories dazzle with wit, passion, and insight. As we know, in Hebrew and Christian scriptures there is a Book of Daniel. He is a visionary who is dispatched into that famous den of lions by a corruptible, self-serving ruler, with every expectation he will be torn to pieces. He is miraculously spared, however—angels may have played a role—and he returns to the light of day with new stories, new prophecies. In the Books of Danielle, Danielle Evans that is, something related seems to have occurred. She published her Office of Historical Corrections during the election season of 2020, a period of unprecedented vexation and political turmoil. In the course of her marvelous career this author returns again and again from danger with prophetic stories of her own, radiant with intensity and conviction and grace. Lions never have a chance.”

“I am thrilled and honored to receive this year’s prize,” said Ms. Evans, “and to find myself in the wonderful company of this year’s finalists and the Joyce Carol Oates Prize’s previous winners. An award like this gives the gift of time and confidence, and I will use both as I work on my next book, a novel about celebrity, the shifting media landscape, the price of becoming an icon, and the ways our culture often simultaneously celebrates, mourns, and makes demands of Black women. Just before the start of our strange pandemic year, I was at a beach by the Pacific Ocean reading a stack of books that included Joyce Carol Oates’s Blonde and thinking about how writers I admire have approached writing about celebrity. Winning this prize as we are (hopefully) emerging from this disrupted and isolated year feels like being called back to my work in progress, and also provides a welcome chance to get back to the West Coast, where I am very much looking forward to being in residency and to being in conversation and community with the young writers in the Project’s workshops.”

Sarah McGrath, SVP, Editor in Chief, Riverhead Books, commented, “In the single decade of her exciting publishing career, Danielle Evans has produced two of the finest short story collections in America. Evans is more than just a great story writer, though; she is one of our best writers, period. She fits the emotional scope of an entire novel into the space of a couple dozen pages. She offers readers a nuanced reflection of the human condition and the world in which we live, and still has room for sly humor and a breathtaking plot twist. She gifts us with her innate understanding of the proximity between grief and humor, making us laugh and cry at the very same time. Her fiction has the rare capacity to simultaneously entertain and change us – to clarify our experience of the world. I am so pleased to see Danielle Evans receive the Joyce Carol Oates Prize, an honor she richly deserves.”

Joyce Carol Oates offered this praise: “Danielle Evans is that rare combination: a writer of lovingly crafted, often poetic and introspective prose whose subjects are as timely as today’s headlines—disturbing, provocative, enigmatic, resisting summary or paraphrase. She has a wickedly sharp eye and ear for hypocrisy and is very funny about pretentiousness in private life as in public life. Her combustible story ‘Boys Go to Jupiter’ is satire edged with sympathy, as ‘Alcatraz’ is tragedy irradiated with sympathy. Her most ambitious work, The Office of Historical Corrections, is a novella-length examination of the very heart of contemporary American darkness— the systemic racism embedded and protected in American institutions, approached here with a Kafkaesque literalness and heart-tripping suspense. For all its sharpness and unflinching candor, Danielle Evans’s ‘voice’ is confiding, forgiving. She can make us laugh, and then she can warn us, in the concluding words of the story ‘Why Don’t Women Just Say What They Want’ that we might ‘not fathom yet how real and how necessary her ruthlessness would be.’”

Danielle Evans is the author of the story collections THE OFFICE OF HISTORICAL CORRECTIONS and BEFORE YOU SUFFOCATE YOUR OWN FOOL SELF, both published by Riverhead. Her first book won the PEN American Robert W. Bingham Prize, the Hurston-Wright award for fiction, and the Paterson Prize for fiction; her second was a finalist for The Story Prize, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction, and The Aspen Words Literary Prize. She was a 2020 National Endowment for the Arts fellow and a 2011 National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree. Her work has appeared in magazines and anthologies including The Best American Short Stories and New Stories from The South. She teaches in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.

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