Edwidge Danticat and Yaa Gyasi were among the recipients of the Vilcek Prize 2020 announced on February 1, 2020.
The Vilcek Foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia to the United States. It awards two prizes annually to immigrants, one in biomedical science and one in a rotating category of the arts and humanities, who have made lasting contributions to United States society.
The winners for the prize for 2020 in the arts were in literature with the sub-categories Vilcek Prize in Literature and the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Literature.
“The winners of the 2020 Vilcek Prizes in Literature deftly explore themes of identity, agency, and belonging across a span of genres,” says Marica Vilcek, cofounder and vice chairman of the Vilcek Foundation. “The power of literature as an art form is the immersive experience it provides—the reader has the opportunity to see the world from another perspective, through the lens of the author or narrator.”
The recipient of the 2020 Vilcek Prize in Literature is Edwidge Danticat for her dazzling prose and genre-spanning work that explores the Haitian diaspora and other personal narratives. Danticat’s work surveys intersecting themes of national and cultural identity, immigration and diaspora, women’s experiences, and Haitian American lives. She has written more than 15 books, including the memoir Brother, I’m Dying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography in 2008; Krik? Krak!, a collection of short stories and a finalist for a 1995 National Book Award; as well as Breath, Eyes, Memory; The Farming of Bones; The Dew Breaker; Create Dangerously; The Art of Death; and Everything Inside. Danticat has also published several books for children and young adults. Danticat was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
The winners of the 2020 Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Literature are Yaa Gyasi, Valeria Luiselli, and Jenny Xie. Yaa Gyasi is a novelist and the author of Homegoing, which explores family ancestry, the impact of the transatlantic slave trade, and its generational trauma. This debut novel has been lauded for its intimate portrayal of the experiences of persons in the Ghanaian and black diasporas and won the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize for best first book and the American Book Award in 2017. Gyasi is a 2016 National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree, and her writing has appeared in Granta, Guernica, The Guardian, and other publications. Gyasi was born in Mampong, Ghana.