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Ernest J. Gaines to Recieve North Star Award from the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation

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The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation will honor Ernest J. Gaines with the North Star Award and Junot Díaz with the Ella Baker Award during the 2016 Legacy Awards Ceremony on Friday, Oct. 21 in Washington, D.C.

The North Star award—the foundation's highest honor—recognizes career accomplish and inspiration to the writing community. Gaines is author of A Lesson Before Dying,The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and other beloved novels that are taught in schools and celebrated in the canon of world literature.

The Ella Baker Award recognizes writers for work that advances social justice. Díaz, author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is a co-founder of Voices of Our Nation Arts (VONA) workshop and advocates for writers of color.

The 2016 Nominees for Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards recognizing the best in Black literature are:

Debut Fiction

  • Mourner's Bench by Sanderia Faye (The University of Arkansas Press)
  • The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson (Penguin Press)
  • The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Little, Brown and Company)


  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Delicious Foods by James Hannaham (Little, Brown and Company)
  • Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson (William Morrow)
  • Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • The Lost Child by Caryl Phillips (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


  • The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander (Grand Central Publishing)
  • Confronting Black Jacobins: The United States, the Haitian Revolution, and the Origins of the Dominican Republic by Gerald Horne (Monthly Review Press)
  • Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk (Amistad)
  • Where Everybody Looks Like Me: At the Crossroads of America's Black Colleges and Culture by Ron Stodghill (Amistad)
  • Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We "Catch" Mental Illness by Harriet A. Washington (Little, Brown and Company)
  • The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America by D. Watkins (Hot Books/Skyhorse Publishing)


  • Honest Engine by Kyle Dargan (The University of Georgia Press)
  • Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press)
  • Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press)
  • How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes (Penguin Books)
  • It Seems Like a Mighty Long Time by Angela Jackson (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press)
  • Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • The Legacy Awards will be presented Friday, Oct. 21 at the historic Washington
  • Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C. The evening will culminate in the announcement of the winners of the juried awards for books by Black authors published in 2015 in the categories of debut fiction, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Winners of the
  • Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers, under the sponsorship of Amistad books, a division of Harper Collins Publishers, also will be honored.

For more information, visit the Hurston/Wright Foundation.