Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Joy Williams (MFA '65) is the recipient of the 2021 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction

Portrait of Joy Williams
Joy Williams

The annual prize honors an American writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that, throughout long, consistently accomplished careers, have told us something about the American experience.

Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, chose Williams on the recommendation of a jury of 60 distinguished authors and prominent literary figures from around the world. She said of the selection, “I am pleased and honored to confer this prize on Joy Williams, in celebration of her almost half-century of extraordinary work. Her work reveals the strange and unsettling grace just beneath the surface of our lives. In a story, a moment, a single sentence, it can force us to reimagine how we see ourselves, how we understand each other — and how we relate to the natural world.”

Williams is the author of the novels State of Grace, The Changeling, Breaking and Entering, The Quick and the Dead, and Harrow; an essay collection, Ill Nature: Rants and Reflections on Humanity and Other Animals; and short story collections including, Taking Care, Honored Guest, and The Visiting Privilege. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Rea Award for the Short Story; has published in Granta, Ploughshares, The New Yorker and The Paris Review; and has taught creative writing at the University of Florida, the University of Iowa and the University of Houston.

Recent recipients of the Library of Congress prize include Colson Whitehead (2020), Richard Ford (2019), E. Annie Proulx (2018), and Denis Johnson (2017).