Short story writer and novelist Joy Williams will receive the 2021 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, the library announced in a news release.
“I am pleased and honored to confer this prize on Joy Williams, in celebration of her almost half-century of extraordinary work,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said. “Her work reveals the strange and unsettling grace just beneath the surface of our lives. In a story, a moment, a single sentence, it can force us to reimagine how we see ourselves, how we understand each other—and how we relate to the natural world.”
Williams is the author of 12 books, including the short story collections The Visiting Privilege and Ninety-Nine Stories of God, and the novels The Quick and the Dead and The Changeling. Her novel Harrow is scheduled for publication by Knopf in September; in a starred review, a critic for Kirkus calls the book “an enigmatic, elegant meditation on the end of civilization—if end it truly is.”
“This is a wonderful award and one that inspires much humility,” Williams said in a statement. “The American story is wild, uncapturable and discomfiting, and our fiction—our literature—is poised to challenge and deeply change us as it becomes ever more inclusive and ecocentric.”
Previous winners of the prize include Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, and Colson Whitehead. Williams is scheduled to accept her award at the online 2021 National Book Festival in September.
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.