Author Roxane Gay named recipient of 2016 Paul Engle Prize

Writer will accept award in Coralville during Iowa City Book Festival

Author Roxane Gay in Coleman Hall on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. on January 31, 2014. (Jay Grabiec)
Author Roxane Gay in Coleman Hall on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. on January 31, 2014. (Jay Grabiec)

Roxane Gay has been named the fifth recipient of the Paul Engle Prize, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization.

The prize, established in 2011, honors an individual who, like Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts.

Gay will receive the prize, which includes a one-of-a-kind work of art and $10,000, during a special ceremony as part of the Iowa City Book Festival on Oct. 6. The event, at 7 p.m. at the Coralville Public Library, is free and open to the public.

Gay is the author of the short story collection “Ayiti,” the novel “An Untamed State,” and the essay collection “Bad Feminist.” Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in “Best American Mystery Stories 2014,” “Best American Short Stories 2012,” “Best Sex Writing 2012,” “A Public Space,” “McSweeney’s,” “Tin House,” “Oxford American,” “American Short Fiction,” “West Branch,” “Virginia Quarterly Review,” “NOON,” “the New York Times Book Review,” “Bookforum,” “Time,” “The Los Angeles Times,” “The Nation,” “The Rumpus,” “Salon” and many others.

She also has been chosen as one of the writers of the forthcoming Marvel comic, “World of Wakanda.” She and the poet Yona Harvey will work on the project, becoming the first black women to write for Marvel.

She is an associate professor of English at Purdue University, contributing Op-Ed writer at “the New York Times,” founder of Tiny Hardcore Press, and co-editor of “PANK,” a non-profit literary arts collective.

“It is an unexpected but very welcome surprise to be receiving the 2016 City of Literature Paul Engle Prize,” Gay said. “I write because I love it, plain and simple. Before my first book was published, my dream was just to publish a book, to have people read my stories and essays and, hopefully, enjoy them. It never crossed my mind to dream of anything more. To receive an award like this, to know my work is seen as valuable to the communities I work in, reminds me that the dream of writing and having my words resonate with people is more than enough because sometimes, dreams take on a life of their own.”


The Paul Engle Prize is made possible through the generous support of the City of Coralville. The Engle Prize itself is a one-of-a-kind work of art created by M.C. Ginsberg in Iowa City. The piece is crafted to reflect the work and impact of the recipient, while tying it to the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

Paul Engle, who died in 1991, was the longtime director of the Writers’ Workshop and founder of the UI’s International Writing Program.

Previous winners of the prize are:

James Alan McPherson, a longtime instructor at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Elbow Room

Kwame Dawes, a professor at the University of Nebraska, editor of the journal Prairie Schooner, and author of the recent poetry collection, Duppy Conqueror

Luis Alberto Urrea, a multigenre author whose works include the novel Into the Beautiful North, the non-fiction work, The Devil’s Highway, and the recent poetry collection, The Tijuana Book of the Dead.

Sara Paretsky, author of the best-selling V.I. Warshawski mystery series. She also created Sisters in Crime, a group that has evolved into a worldwide organization that supports women crime writers, and is a past president of the Mystery Writers of America.



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