Tayari Jones receives United States Artists grant, Poetry center book award for Rigoberto Gonzalez; advnance raise for Jayne Anne Phillips’ new novel

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The Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Rutgers University, Newark, is on a winning streak. Last spring, it was several students from the MFA program who won honors for their talents and creativity; this fall it’s their professors’ turn in the spotlight.

Professor Rigoberto González has been awarded The Poetry Center Book Award for Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (Tupelo Press, 2006), while Professor Tayari Jones has received an unrestricted $50,000 grant from the United States Artists Foundation (USAF). González, who teaches poetry, and Jones, who teaches fiction, are among the inaugural faculty members in the MFA Program, which accepted its first students in Fall 2007. Professor Jayne Anne Phillips, who is director of the MFA Program, already is receiving praise for her upcoming novel, Lark and Termite, including a starred Publisher’s Weekly review that calls it “a long-awaited and wonderful coming-of-age tale of grief and survival.”

The Poetry Center Book Award given to González by The Poetry Center, based at San Francisco State University, honors a single outstanding book of poetry published in the previous year. Previous recipients include Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds and C. D. Wright.  González’ book, Other Fugitives and Other Strangers, was selected from among hundreds of entries. González is the author of seven books, most recently of the memoir, Butterfly
Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa, winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. The recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and of various international artist residencies, the New York City resident writes a Latino book column for the El Paso Times and is contributing editor for Poets and Writers Magazine.  González also serves on the Boards of Directors of the National Book Critics Circle and Fishouse Poems: A Poetry Archive, as well as the Advisory Circle of Con Tinta, a collective of Chicano/ Latino activist writers.

Tayari Jones, one of 50, 2008 United States Artists Collins Fellows, describes her grant as a “gift of freedom award, designed to help us be able to take time off from our usual hustle in order to write.”   Jones’ first novel, Leaving Atlanta, received numerous awards, including the Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction. It was named “Novel of the Year” by Atlanta Magazine, “Best Southern Novel of the Year,” by Creative Loafing Atlanta, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Washington Post both listed it as one of the best of 2002.  When her second novel, The Untelling, was published in 2005, Essence magazine called Jones “a writer to watch” and The Atlanta Journal Constitution proclaimed Jones “one of the best writers of her generation.” In 2005, The Untelling was given the Lillian C. Smith Award for New Voices by The Southern Regional Council and the University of Georgia Libraries.  Jones has received fellowships from organizations including Illinois Arts Council, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, The Corporation of Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, Arizona Commission on the Arts and Le Chateau de Lavigny ( Switzerland.)

Phillips, who teaches fiction as well as directs the MFA progam, is an award-winning novelist and short-story writer. Lark And Termite, which will be published Jan. 6 by Knopf, is already generating critical buzz, earning praise from previewers, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz, who called it “an astounding feat of imagination…the best novel I’ve read this year.”
The MFA program itself has been hailed by The Atlantic magazine as one of “Five Up and Coming Programs” in its 2007 Special Fiction Issue.  The program was developed by Phillips.