Yaa Gyasi receives Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature and $50,000 cash prize

Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi

February 3, 2020 - 12:15pm

Yaa Gyasi is one of three recipients this year who has received a Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature, which includes a cash prize of $50,000. The prize recognizes immigrants who have made outstanding contributions in contemporary literature. Gyasi was selected by the Vilcek Foundation, a private, non-profit foundation that raises awareness of immigrant contributions in the United States and fosters appreciation of the arts and sciences.

“The winners of the 2020 Vilcek Prizes in Literature deftly explore themes of identity, agency, and belonging across a span of genres,” says Marica Vilcek, cofounder and vice chairman of the Vilcek Foundation. “The power of literature as an art form is the immersive experience it provides—the reader has the opportunity to see the world from another perspective, through the lens of the author or narrator.”

Gyasi graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2014 and is the author of Homegoing, a debut novel that explores family ancestry, the impact of the transatlantic slave trade, and its generational trauma. Homegoing has been lauded for its intimate portrayal of the experiences of persons in the Ghanaian and black diasporas and won the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize for best first book and the American Book Award in 2017.

Gyasi is a 2016 National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree, and her writing has appeared in Granta, Guernica, The Guardian, and other publications. Gyasi was born in Mampong, Ghana.

Other recipients of the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature this year include Edwidge Danticat, Valeria Luiselli and Jenny Xie.

The Vilcek Foundation was established in 2000 with the purpose of honoring and supporting the contributions of foreign-born persons to the arts, humanities, and sciences in the United States. The foundation accomplishes this mission through prize programs, grant-making, and partnering with allied organizations.

The Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise are awarded to young immigrant professionals who have demonstrated outstanding achievement early in their careers. The Creative Promise Prizewinners are selected through a juried application process; each Creative Promise Prizewinner receives a commemorative award and a cash prize of $50,000. Three Creative Promise Prizes are awarded annually in Biomedical Science, and three Creative Promise Prizes are awarded annually in a discipline in the Arts and Humanities.

All of the prizewinners will be celebrated at the Vilcek Foundation Prizes Gala in New York in April 2020.

For more information:

Read more about Yaa Gyasi and the 2020 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature: https://vilcek.org/prizes/prize-recipients/yaa-gyasi/

Read a Q&A with Yaa Gyasi where she describes her time in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop:  https://now.uiowa.edu/2016/10/yaa-gyasi-meteoric-success

Read about Natalia Reyes, a Workshop student who received a 2018 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans: https://now.uiowa.edu/2018/05/permission-dream-writers-workshop-student-named-soros-fellow