2020 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award finalists

These six books are finalists for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award.

BOONE — A decades-long oral narrative project edited by Susan Keefe, team members from Appalachian State University’s Department of Anthropology and assistance from the Junaluska Heritage Association has earned one of six finalist slots for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. The award is presented by the Western North Carolina Historical Association.

“Junaluska: Oral Histories” arose from “decades-long history of working with the community and earning their trust,” Keefe, professor emerita of Anthropology, said in a past interview about the project. The book is published by Jefferson, N.C.’s McFarland & Company. Read the interview here.

For more than six decades, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award has been considered one of the state’s most prestigious. Originated by the Louis Lipinsky family and now also supported by Michael Sartisky and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Committee, the award has been presented annually since 1955 for printed works that focus special attention on Western North Carolina. The Dec. 16 award ceremony will celebrate six finalists for the 2020 award with short readings by each author from their publication. The winner of the award will be announced in early December.

To be considered, an entry must be a published work of fiction, nonfiction, drama or poetry and meet the following criteria:

• It must be a first edition work; revised editions of published works will not be considered.

• The publication date must be in the calendar year 2019 or no later than July 15, 2020.

• The author must be a native of Western North Carolina or a resident of Western NC for at least 12 months prior to the closing date for the Award.

• An author may also qualify if the work submitted has a focus on or setting in Western NC.

The WNC Historical Association presented the first Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award to Wilma Dykeman in 1955 for “The French Broad.” In 2019, winners were George Ellison and Janet McCue for their biography of Horace Kephart, “Back of Beyond.” Other authors who have received the award include Chalres Frazier, Robert Morgan, John Parris, Gail Godwin, John Ehle, Robert Brunk, Michael McFee, Lee Smith, Ron Rash, Wiley Cash, Wayne Caldwell, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr.

A prize of $2,500 accompanies the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award and will be virtually presented to the author(s) at 6 p.m. on Dec. 16 during a live Zoom event that will include readings by the finalists.

This year’s six finalists were chosen from an original group of 40 nominations. The finalists, listed below, encompass a broad range of genres and forms.

  • • Leah Hampton: “Fckface and Other Stories”;

• Sandra Muse Isaacs: “Eastern Cherokee Stories: A Living Oral Tradition and Its Cultural Continuance”;

• Susan E. Keefe, Junaluska Heritage Association: “Junaluska: Oral Histories of a Black Appalachian Community”;

• Courtney Lewis: “Sovereign Entrepreneurs: Cherokee Small-Business Owners and the Making of Economic Sovereignty”;

• Rose McLarney, Laura-Gray Street, and L.L. Gaddy, editors: “A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia”; and

• Dale Neal: “Appalachian Book of the Dead.”

The Western North Carolina Historical Association is a nonprofit with a mission of promoting and preserving regional history. For more information, cal (828) 253-9231 or visit www.wnchistory.org.

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