Past Winners


Sally Wen Mao is the author of Oculus, out now from Graywolf Press on January 15th, 2019, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry. Oculus was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2019, a Best Reviewed Poetry Book of 2019 from Book Marks, an NPR Favorite Book of 2019, a Library Journal’s Best Poetry Book of 2019, a Best Poetry Book of 2019 from Entropy Magazine, and a Best Poetry Book of 2019 from Marie Claire. Oculus has been featured or reviewed by Nylon, The Washington Post, Lit Hub, NPR, Vulture, O Magazine, The Millions, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Poets&Writers, and The New Yorker, among others. Her first book, Mad Honey Symposium (Alice James Books, 2014), was the winner of the 2012 Kinereth Gensler Award, a Poets & Writers Top Ten Debut of 2014, a Publishers Weekly Top Ten Anticipated Pick of Fall 2014, and one of Bustle’s 14 Best Debut Collections of the Last Five Years.


Jamel Brinkley is the 2018 Sister Mariella Gable Award recipient for his debut short story collection, A Lucky Man, published by Graywolf Press and A Public Space Books. A graduate of Columbia University and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Brinkley has had works of fiction published in The Best American Short Stories 2018, A Public Space, Ploughshares, American Short Fiction, and LitMag, among others. Brinkley was the 2016-2017 Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and will be the 2018-2020 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University.

In A Lucky Man, Brinkley details nine stories of black men and boys whose mistakes threaten their personal relationships, giving light to a world shaped by race, gender and class.


Edwidge Danticat has received numerous awards and honors, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography, the American Book Award, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and was twice a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction.  She will be on campus to celebrate her new Sister Mariella Gable Award-winning book, The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story.

The Art of Death grew from her experience mourning the death of her mother, and it is an exceptional blend of critical and personal writing. If writers are told to “write what you know,” death is the one thing that is ultimately unknowable: we witness the moment right before, or right after, but the reality remains elusive, and writers unavoidably focus on life. In this astute and intimate work of criticism, Danticat assesses how writers as different as Toni Morrison, Taye Selasi, and C.S. Lewis have approached death, grief, and loss, and it culminates with her channeling the voice of her mother. It’s impossible to emerge unmoved from this profound and incisive book. 

From Graywolf Press's Art of series of books on the craft of writing.


"Susan Stewart may be our best contemporary thinker on poetry. . . she writes criticism with the grace of a poet, and poetry with a strong logos underlying its lyrical surface. Both are haunted by a feel for our unknowable, primordial being, and this is no doubt what gives her work its abyssal power." Ange Mlinko | Los Angeles Review of Books

Susan Stewart is a poet and critic, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University and former chancellor of the American Academy of Poets. She has published several collections of poetry, such as Yellow Stars and Ice (1981), The Hive (1987), The Forest (1995), Columbarium (2003), and Red Rover (2008), as well as books of criticism, including Poetry and the Fate of Senses (2001) and The Poet's Freedom: A Notebook on Making (2011). Her most recent collection Cinder: New and Selected Poems, and the 2016 recipient of the Sister Mariella Gable Award.


On Immunity addresses a number of fears that are often considered chronic when it comes to raising children: fear of the government, the medical establishment, what is in a child's air, food, mattress, medicine, and vaccines.  In the end, author Eula Biss finds that it is impossible to immunize your child, or yourself, from the world. On Immunity has received a number of honors, including being named a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and a Publishers Weekly PW Pick of the Week.  It was also a finalist for the 2015 Midwest Booksellers Choice Award and an Indies Choice Book Awards honoree. 

Eula Biss is also the author of Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays and The Balloonists.  She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Howard Foundation Fellowship, and NEA Literature Fellowship, and a Jaffe Writers' Award.  Biss' essays have been published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Nonfiction, The Believer, Gulf Coast, Denver Quarterly, Third Coast, and Harper's.  She earned her Bachelor's degree in nonfiction writing from Hampshire College and her Master's degree in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. 


Citizen by Claudia Rankine received the 2014 Sister Mariella Gable award.  Citizen also was awarded for the Forward Prize in the United Kingdom in 2015.

Claudia Rankine is also the author of Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, Plot, The End of the Alphabet, and Nothing in Nature is Private. In 2014, Rankine was awarded the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, which is awarded to an American poet of exceptional talent deserving wider recognition. Her work is included in several of the anthologies, such as Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the PresentBest American Poetry 2001, Giant Step: African American Writing at the Crossroads of the Century, and The Garden Thrives: Twentieth Century African-American Poetry.


Ru Freeman's On Sal Mal Lane was the recipient of the 2013 Sister Mariella Gable award; 2013 was the Centennial Celebration of Sister Mariella Gable.

Born in Sri Lanka, Freeman found inspiration for her work in her family and country's pasts. Her political writing focuses on international humanitarian assistance and workers' rights, while her creative writing has been featured in Guernicaand World Literature Today. Freeman published her first novel, A Disobedient Girl, in 2009; it was long-listed for the DCS Prize for South Asian Literature and translated into several languages. Her newest book, On Sal Mal Lane, uses her characteristic sensory detail, language, and humor to describe the plight of a Sri Lankan community in the five years before the country's civil war.


Deborah Baker's The Convert: A Tale of Exile on Extremism received the 2012 Sister Mariella Gable Prize.

It was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award in Nonfiction, augmenting the success of her three previous books such as In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding, which competed for the 1994 Pulitzer Prize in Biography. Baker appeared as part of the Warner Reading Series through a generous grant from the Manitou Fund.


Binyavanga Wainaina's first novel, One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir received the 2011 Sister Mariella Gable Prize.

Wainaina is an author and journalist, a Bard Fellow and the Director of the Chiuna Achebe Center for African Literature and Languages at Bard College. He is from Kenya and lives in New York. He received the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002, and since then, many writers featured in the East African literary magazine Kwani? that he founded have received the Caine Prize as well. In 2003, the Kenya Publisher's Association presented him with an award for his services to Kenyan Literature.


How to Escape from a Leper Colony by Tiphanie Yanique was the winner of the 2010 Sister Mariella Gable Prize.

Yanique's achievements include the Pushcart Prize, Kore Press Fiction Prize, Academy of American Poets Prize, Fulbright Scholarship in writing, Boston Review Fiction Prize, and 2010 Rona Jaffe Prize in Fiction.


The Art of Syntax by Ellen Bryant Voigt was the 2009 annual Sister Mariella Gable Prize, an award given by the College of Saint Benedict for an important work of literature published by Graywolf Press.


Linda Gregg's All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems was the 2008 winner of the Sister Mariella Gable Prize.

Gregg's honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Whiting Writer's Award, as well as multiple Pushcart Prizes. She was the 2003 winner of the Sara Teasdale Award and the 2006 PEN/Voelcker Award winner for Poetry. She also received the William Carlos Williams Award, which is a prize for a distinguished book of poetry published by a small press, non-profit, or university press.


Duende, by Tracy K. Smith was chosen as 2007 winner of the Sister Mariella Gable Prize.


Trilogy: Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship which includes the books, Sweet and Sour Milk, Sardines, and Close Sesame by Nuruddin Farah was chosen as the 2006 winner of the sixth annual Sister Mariella Gable Prize. Read an excerpt from Close Sesame.


Collected Poems of Jane Kenyon by Jane Kenyon was chosen as the 2005 winner of the Sister Mariella Gable Prize.


The Weatherman by Clint McCown was the 2004 winner of the Sister Mariella Gable Prize. The Weatherman was a Graywolf Press new release. Read an excerpt.


One Vacant Chair by Joe Coomer was chosen as the winner of the third annual Sister Mariella Gable Prize. One Vacant Chair was a Graywolf Press new release. Read an excerpt.


The 2002 winner of the Sister Mariella Gable Prize was Judith Kitchen's novel The House on Eccles Road, published by Graywolf Press in fall 2002. Read an excerpt.


The 2001 winner of the Sister Mariella Gable Prize was the novel Loverboy, by Victoria Redel. It was published by Graywolf Press in spring 2001. Loverboy was recently made into a movie. Read an excerpt.