Whiting Foundation Names Creative Nonfiction Grantees

November 10, 2021 | 1 3 min read

The Whiting Foundation named the nine recipients of the 2021 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant. Recipients of the Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant, now in its sixth year, receive $40,000 to support a nonfiction project. Previous grantees include Sarah M. Broom, Andrea Elliot, and Kristen Radtke. This year’s grantees are:

  • Rebecca Clarren
  • Ashley D. Farmer
  • Kevin González
  • Sangamithra Iyer
  • Lorelei Lee
  • Catherine Venable Moore
  • Nina Siegal
  • Ali Winston and Darwin BondGraham

Below are brief bios and descriptions of each of the grantees’ manuscripts, the titles of which are provisional.

Rebecca Clarren

An American Inheritance: Jews, Lakota, and the Cost of Free Land
Forthcoming from Penguin Books

An American Inheritance investigates the parallel histories of the author’s family, who fled anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia in the early 20th century to settle on land in South Dakota given to them by the U.S. government, and the Lakota who were then forced off that land, examining what happens when the oppressed become the oppressors.

Ashley D. Farmer

Queen Mother Audley Moore: Mother of Black Nationalism
Historical biography
Forthcoming from University of North Carolina Press

An essential book: this is a biography of not only an extraordinary and understudied figure but an entire movement. Queen Mother Audley Moore gives the fraught, feminized, and often unglamorous work of organizing its due, and it contributes to our working knowledge of the history of civil rights, filling in the gaps throughout the twentieth century. Farmer’s groundbreaking and tenacious research allows her to build what other writers claimed was impossible: a full-length biography of the mother of modern Black nationalism. 

Kevin González

Memoir/History/Cultural reportage
Forthcoming from Pantheon

Juracán is a memoir about growing up in Puerto Rico in the ’80s and ’90s, of immigrating to the United States in search of opportunities not available on the island, and of being caught between languages and cultures. At the heart of the book is the search for the author’s father, distant in youth, who during Hurricane María became trapped in his apartment without running water or electricity until González was able to return to the island to rescue him. Juracán—hurricane—is the name the native Taíno Indians bestowed upon their god of chaos and destruction, who would descend on the island to air his wrath by way of torrential storms. This mythical figure serves as an overarching metaphor as the book examines Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the United States.

Sangamithra Iyer

Governing Bodies
Forthcoming from Milkweed Editions

Governing Bodies is a lyrical manifesto and ethical reckoning of the ways earthly bodies are controlled by and liberated from colonialism, capitalism, and speciesism. The book intertwines the story of the author’s paternal grandfather, who quit his job as a civil engineer in colonial Burma to become a water diviner and join the Freedom Movement in India, with the author’s own journeys as a civil engineer, writer, and activist. It foregrounds the rights of animals, the mythology and meanders of rivers, and the strength and vulnerability of the earth. Governing Bodies inhabits liminal spaces and acts as a catena, linking wide-ranging subjects from personal and planetary grief to invisible inheritances, and asks what it means to embody nonviolence.

Lorelei Lee

Anything of Value
Memoir/Cultural reportage
Forthcoming from HarperCollins

Organizer and sex worker Lee’s Anything of Value blends memoir, history, and critical theory to reevaluate our cultural understanding of sex work and its intersections with class, race, gender, labor, bodily integrity, and the law—and ultimately argues for sex work decriminalization.

Catherine Venable Moore

Disunion: West Virginia Coal Miners and America’s Other Civil War     
Forthcoming from Random House

Disunion is a history of the West Virginia Mine Wars, one of the most dramatic struggles for civil rights that this country has known, but also one of the nation’s most obscure. In recounting the stories of three major strikes leading up to the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921—commonly referred to as the largest armed insurrection in U.S. history since the Civil War—Moore brings to life the miners and their families, many of them immigrant or Black, and the tenuous alliances they forged as they repeatedly went up against the powerful combination of corporations that exerted autocratic power over their lives.

Nina Siegal

The Diary Keepers
Cultural history
Forthcoming from Ecco

The Diary Keepers was born out of a New York Times article, “The Lost Diaries of War,” which explored a trove of more than 2,000 diaries collected by the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam. The author has chosen seven diaries from the collection, which she weaves together to tell the story of the war from varying perspectives, like a multi-character novel. They include narratives of Jews in hiding and imprisoned, a grocery store owner who became a member of the resistance, a young, unaffiliated factory worker in Amsterdam, and a police officer and Nazi collaborator who ran a special unit to hunt Jews. Taken together, their stories create a fascinating mosaic of life in the Netherlands in the five harrowing years from Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands to the end of occupation. 

Ali Winston and Darwin BondGraham

The Riders Come Out at Night: The Failure to End Police Brutality and Corruption in Oakland
Forthcoming from Atria Books

The Riders Come Out at Night profiles the Oakland Police Department, the law enforcement agency under the longest-running federal reform program in the United States. The authors, prize-winning independent journalists, have followed the story for 13 years. Through an examination of the department’s past and present, the book examines the evolution of contemporary policing in America and delves into whether the profession, in its current shape, can be reformed.

is an editor and writer from Los Angeles. She lives in Brooklyn and tweets at @smswrites.

One comment:

  1. “Creative nonfiction”: what an oxymoron! If it is creative, it is not nonfiction; if it is nonfiction, it is not creative. Is this flatulent label an effort to appropriate the stature of the fiction writer? Or, as I suspect, a power move to create jobs in the academy. Either way, no one associated with publishing should use this offensively bloviation.

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