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Alumna among Windham Campbell winners

A Yale alumna is among this year’s recipients of the Windham Campbell Literature Prizes.

Jackie Sibblies Drury ’03 was one of the nine writers recognized by this year’s award, which Yale president Peter Salovey ’86PhD announced at a press conference in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library this morning. Drury was recognized in the drama category for her work as a playwright, which Salovey said challenges presumptions about race, performance and personal responsibility.

In a 2013 profile, the New York Times called Drury “the playwright of the moment.” Her dauntingly-titled play We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South-West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrrika Between the Years 1884-1915 won the Edgerton New Play Award in 2011; it was performed at the Yale Cabaret last summer.

Three writers were recognized in each of the three categories: drama, nonfiction and fiction. Two British playwrights, Helen Edmundson and Debbie Tucker Green, were the other recipients of the prize in drama. In nonfiction, the winners are ceramic artist and art historian Edmund de Waal, eclectic British writer Geoff Dyer and essayist and magazine writer John Jeremiah Sullivan. In fiction, the awards went to two Nigerian writers, Teju Cole and Helon Habila, and South African author Ivan Vladislavic, whose novels and short stories explore the aftermath of apartheid.

First awarded in 2013, the Windham Campbell Prizes were established in 2011 to celebrate literary achievement and to allow writers to focus on their work independent from financial concerns. Winners in three categories—nonfiction, drama and fiction—receive $150,000 each to support their work.

Winners are chosen through a rigorous and confidential process. A committee considers nominations from around the English-speaking world, and writers do not know they are being considered until the decisions have been made. Salovey said that year’s committee considered 61 nominations from 12 different countries.

Mike Kelleher, the director of the prize, said that the process’ confidentiality means that the winners are usually shocked when they are first contacted. He said that one of this year’s winners reacted by telling him, “You know, if this is a practical joke, this is the meanest practical joke that’s ever been played on me.”

The nine new prize winners will come to Yale in September for an awards ceremony and a week-long celebration of their achievements.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

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