Back to Blog

NCWN Member David Joy Wins Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award

The Asheville Museum of History recently announced the selection of NCWN Member David Joy as the winner of the 2023 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award for Those We Thought We Knew. This year’s winner and finalists were chosen from an original group of more than 35 nominations. The finalists, listed below in alphabetical order, encompass a broad range of genres and forms.

  • Erica Abrams LocklearAppalachia on the Table: Representing Mountain Food and People
  • Elizabeth GiddensOconaluftee: The History of a Smoky Mountain Valley
  • David JoyThose We Thought We Knew (Winner)
  • Jennifer McGahaBushwhacking: How to Get Lost in the Woods and Write Your Way Out
  • Terry Roberts (also an NCWN Member), The Sky Club

The winner and finalists will be honored at an award ceremony on Thursday, April 25, at 6 pm at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium in Asheville, where each of the finalists will read a short passage from their work. A prize of $1,000 accompanies the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award and will be awarded to Joy at the ceremony. A reception will follow at the Asheville Museum of History at the Smith-McDowell House.

Originated by the Louis Lipinsky family, the Award has been presented annually by the organization since 1955 for printed works that focus special attention on Western North Carolina. To be considered this year, an entry had to be a first edition published work of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or poetry and meet the following criteria:

  1. The publication date must have been no later than August 1, 2023.
  2. The author must be a native of Western North Carolina or a resident of Western North Carolina for at least twelve months prior to the closing date for the Award.
  3. An author could also qualify if the work submitted had a focus on or setting in Western North Carolina.

The Western North Carolina Historical Association presented the first Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award to Wilma Dykeman in 1955 for The French Broad. Brent Martin won the 2022 award for George Masa’s Wild Vision: A Japanese Immigrant Imagines Western North Carolina. Other authors who have received the award include Robert Brunk, Wayne Caldwell, Wiley Cash, Charles Frazier, John Ehle, Gail Godwin, Michael McFee, Doug Orr, Ron Rash, Fiona Ritchie, Terry Roberts, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, and Lee Smith.

The Award Panel this year consisted of:

  • Catherine Frank, Chair, Director, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville;
  • Wayne Caldwell, author and former Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award winner;
  • Dee James, professor emeritus, UNC-Asheville; and
  • Jim Stokely, President, Wilma Dykeman Legacy.

For more information visit