Simpson Literary Project


Simpson Family Literary Prize

2017 Prize Recipient

The Simpson Family Literary Prize recognizes annually a mid-career writer who has earned a distinguished reputation and the approbation and gratitude of readers. The Prize Recipient is an author of fiction at the relatively middle stage of a burgeoning career and receives a $50,000 award to encourage and support forthcoming work. There is an application process and an anonymous jury selects the recipient.

2017 ShortList

T. Geronimo Johnson—2017 Recipient of the Simpson Family Literary Prize


T. Geronimo Johnson was born in New Orleans. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, Johnson has taught writing at UC Berkeley, Stanford, the Writers’ Workshop, the Prague Summer Program, Oregon State University, San Quentin, and elsewhere. He has worked on, at, or in brokerages, kitchens, construction sites, phone rooms, education non-profits, writing centers, summer camps, ladies shoe stores, nightclubs, law firms, offset print shops, and a (pre-2016) political campaign that shall remain unnamed. He also wrote a  couple of novels that have—between the two—been selected by the Wall Street Journal Book Club, named a 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award finalist, shortlisted for the 2016 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, longlisted for the National Book Award, longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, a finalist for The Bridge Book Award, a finalist for the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award, included on Time Magazine’s list of the top ten books of 2015, awarded the Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and named the winner of the 2015 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Johnson was a 2016 National Book Award judge. He lives in Berkeley, CA.

Read the 2017 Prize Recipient press release.

To be named the inaugural recipient of the Simpson Family Literary Prize is an honor I treasure as both a novelist and an educator. I look forward to collaborating with the Foundation and the English Department to advance our shared passions of storytelling and literacy. The award will support continued work on a novel that explores the convergence of Afro-futurism; global AI; the economic imperatives that amplify cultural differences; corporate religion (in all manifestations); and tech inequity. The question behind this novel is the same question that animates my previous work: How do we learn to care about people who are not like us? I’m thrilled by the opportunity to complete this journey without interruption.
— T. Geronimo Johnson

“T. Geronimo Johnson is a brilliantly inventive, audacious, ever-surprising yet warmly sympathetic chronicler of our turbulent America of the early 21st century. His astonishing novel Welcome to Braggsville is many things—a satirical vision of ultra-liberal ideals/illusions, a coming-of-age story tracking the misadventures of four Berkeley undergraduates on a quixotic mission to the Deep South, a lyrically rendered love story with a satisfactorily irresolute ending, a cri de coeur of racial anguish.  Readers will find it touching and hilarious by turns, tragic and revelatory, wise beyond the years of its young and dazzlingly talented author.” 
– Joyce Carol Oates, Author, Professor, Simpson Family Literary Project Committee

“Even in an astounding array of distinguished authors nominated for the Simpson Family Literary Prize, Mr. Johnson stood out. The Simpson Family Literary Project—the private/public partnership of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation and the English Department at UC Berkeley—is thrilled to share him and his brilliant work with students, readers, writers, teachers, professors, and librarians across the generations.”
– Joe Di Prisco, Chair, Simpson Family Literary Project

“We are thrilled, and honored, that Geronimo Johnson, as the first Simpson Family Literary Prize winner, will join us on the campus next year for a series of readings and conversations. He is a phenomenal writer, an acute social critic, and a powerful community voice for social justice on issues that loom large for all Americans."
– Genaro Padilla, Professor and Chair, Berkeley English department

“Simpson Literary Prize Winner T. Geronimo Johnson dazzles us by illuminating the struggles and hypocrisies in the world while moving us to consider alternative perspectives. We're honored to launch this project for the benefit of students, library patrons, and the public and to showcase Mr. Johnson as our first prize recipient.”
– Vickie Sciacca, Senior Community Library Manager