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College of Arts and Sciences

English professor receives Hurston/Wright Legacy Award

By: Amaris Janel Henderson,  A&S Communications
November 19, 2019

Nafissa Thompson-Spires, the Richards Family Assistant Professor in the Department of English, has been awarded the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for her debut short-story collection “Heads of the Colored People.”

 Book Cover with colorful head silhouettes

The Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards recognizes the best of Black literature in America and across the globe. They are given for fiction, poetry and non-fiction works and are distributed by the Hurston/Wright Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to being both a resource and a platform for African American writers. The foundation was established by acclaimed author Marita Golden and cultural historian Clyde McElvene in honor of influential writers Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright.

“Heads of the Colored People” is also the recipient of the PEN Open Book Award, the Whiting Award, was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award and Aspen Words Literary Prize and was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, among others.

In a review for Entertainment Weekly, David Canfield writes “every once in a while a book comes around that fills a need — that communicates ideas so effectively and humanely its social value leaps off the page. Heads, the debut of Nafissa Thompson-Spires, is such a book.”

At Cornell, Thompson-Spires teaches narrative writing and advanced narrative writing. A new addition to the English Department, she was previously an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois.

 Amaris Janel Henderson is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences.