In a Wednesday night ceremony in New York City, the Whiting Foundation announced the honorees of its 2022 Whiting Award, which is presented annually to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Awards are $50,000, one of the most substantial awards sums to exist for emerging writers. 

Claire Boyles, Rita Bullwinkel, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Anthony Cody, Anaïs Duplan, Megha Majumda, Jesse McCarthy, Nana Nkweti, Ina Cariño, and Claire Schwartz were all named as awardees. 

Two recipients are local: Ina Cariño, who is based in Raleigh, and Alexis Pauline Gumbs, who is based in Durham. Cariño is a Whiting poetry awardee and received their MFA in Creative Writing from North Carolina State University. Previous poetry recognitions include a 2021 Alice James Award for the poetry collection Feast, forthcoming in 2023, and recognition as one of the four winners of the annual 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest. They also founded a local reading series, Indigena Collective, which centers marginalized voices. (You can read an INDY interview with Cariño about their work here.) 

“It’s been both amazing and surreal to be in such a talented cohort of writers, and I’m humbled to have had my work read and reread by the anonymous judges,” Cariño told the INDY. “I’m grateful that my words are reaching people; this award will allow me to keep working on poems that I hope will continue to resonate with others.”

Alexis Pauline Gumbs, a nonfiction honoree, holds a PhD in English, African and African American Studies, and Women and Gender Studies from Duke University. She is the author of Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals; Dub: Finding Ceremony; M Archive: After the End of the World, and Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity. She has also previously been a Voices columnist for the INDY Week; you can read those columns here. 

“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude,” Gumbs says. “Especially as I learn more about the legacy of these awards. For example, the late Randall Kenan, one of our most beloved North Carolina writers and a personal mentor of mine, was once a Whiting Award winner! I’m excited to continue living inside the practice of writing as freedom.”

The Whiting Award was founded in 1985. Previous recipients like Colson Whitehead, Jeffrey Eugenides, Tony Kushner, Mary Karr, and Tracy K. Smith have gone on to become household names. 

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