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 ClarrenAshley D. FarmerKevin GonzálezSangamithra IyerLorelei LeeCatherine Venable MooreNina SiegalAli Winston and Darwin BondGraham
Below are brief bios and descriptions of each of the grantees’ manuscripts, the titles of which are provisional.
An American Inheritance: Jews, Lakota, and the Cost of Free LandHistory/Reportage 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 NationalismHistorical biographyForthcoming 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.
JuracánMemoir/History/Cultural reportageForthcoming 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.
Governing BodiesEcology/Memoir/ReportageForthcoming 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.
Anything of ValueMemoir/Cultural reportageForthcoming 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 HistoryForthcoming 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.
The Diary KeepersCultural historyForthcoming 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 OaklandHistoryForthcoming 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.