Simpson Literary Project



2017 Literary Prize Winner Announced

We are pleased to award the inaugural Simpson Family Literary Prize of $50,000 to T. Geronimo Johnson. 

Born in New Orleans, Johnson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and has taught writing at UC Berkeley, Stanford, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, The Prague Summer Program, San Quentin, and elsewhere. His first novel, Hold it ‘til it Hurts, was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award. Welcome to Braggsville was longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award, longlisted for the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, named one of the ten books all Georgians should read by the Georgia Center for the Book, 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. Read his full bio

"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, Literary Prize Winner

“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