Jesmyn Ward is a MacArthur Genius and two-time National Book Award Winner for Sing, Unburied, Sing, and Salvage the Bones. In her talks, Ward shares her writing process and how her experiences growing up poor and Black in the South continue to influence her work. As she said in her acceptance speech at the 2011 National Book Awards, “I understood that I wanted to write about the experiences of the poor, and the Black and the rural people of the South, so that the culture that marginalized us for so long would see that our stories were as universal, our lives as fraught and lovely and important, as theirs.
Alex Kotlowitz is recognized for his unflinching portrayals of race and poverty in America. For more than three decades, Kotlowitz has brought an acute and empathetic lens to on-the-ground reporting in many forms of media—print and radio journalism, documentary film, and books. His 1991 book, There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the 150 most important books of the 20th century. His latest book is An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago, which Wes Moore calls “revelatory and brilliant.” Kotlowitz returns a generation later to some of Chicago’s most turbulent neighborhoods to offer a spellbinding collection of intimate profiles of people and communities touched by gun violence.