On March 11, The American Academy of Arts and Letters announced the names of 17 writers who will receive its 2019 awards in literature. The awards will be presented in New York at the Academy’s annual Ceremonial in May. The literature prizes, totaling $220,000, honor both established and emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry. The Academy’s 250 members propose candidates, and a rotating committee of writers selects winners. This year’s award committee members were Henri Cole, John Guare, Amy Hempel, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Joy Williams.
Among this year's winners is John Keene, chair of the Department of African-American and African Studies at Rutgers University – Newark (RU-N). Keene will receive the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award, $20,000 given to "a writer whose work merits recognition for the quality of its prose style."
John Keene is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Book Award, the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, the 2018 Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction for Counternarratives, and most recently, a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as a “genius grant.”