WINSTON-SALEM—Isaac Hughes Green, a student in North Carolina State University’s MFA Program, has won this year’s Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize for his short story “Fifteens.”
Green will receive the $1,000 prize, and The Carolina Quarterly will consider “Fifteens” for publication.
Final judge W. Ralph Eubanks selected Green’s story, saying “I read this story twice in the same sitting.”
“’Fifteens’ . . . looks at the pitfalls of race and sports, particularly basketball,” Eubanks said. “The father and the son represent two sides of the lure of sports and fame. What I like about this story is that while you feel the son triumphs in spite of the father, the reader also gets a window into the character’s inner life: he knows his courses are not challenging, he questions the system of sports, the exploitation of his body, and the precarious nature of fame. The use of the second person ‘you’ to refer to the unnamed narrator of ‘Fifteen’ helps the reader connect with the character.”
A professional creative for the last five years with work experience that stretches into the last ten, Green is a writer in the Fiction MFA program at North Carolina State University and a 2015 graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. His writing has been published in The Georgia Review. He was longlisted for The Masters Review 2019 Fall Fiction contest. In 2019, he received the Honorable Mention for the James Hurst Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize. He has also screened a film in the Cannes Short Film Corner and has won several screenwriting awards and a cinematography award.
Two other stories received Honorable Mentions: “Remembrance” by Taylor Young and “The Meanest Man in the County” by Evette Evans.
Young is a writer and musician from Raleigh, deeply inspired by her experiences both within the Black Church and with the rich musical offerings of Black American Music. She is an active member of Appalachian State University’s Writers Workshop and is currently studying to be a music therapist.
Hailing from Washington, DC, Evette Evans worked for more than three decades in local government as a budget analyst and financial manager. After retiring, Evette moved to Pittsboro, where as a student in the Creative Writing Program at Central Carolina Community College, she has pursued her lifelong desire to produce stories. She is a professional storyteller, and a member of several regional and national storytelling organizations. Evans is also an External Associate of the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling at the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
The Jacobs/Jones contest, sponsored by the NCWN and administered by the Creative Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, is open to any African-American writer whose primary residence is in North Carolina. Entries may be fiction or creative nonfiction, but must not have been published before (including on any website, blog, or social media), and must be no more than 3,000 words.
The Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize was initiated by Cedric Brown, a Winston-Salem native and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Though Brown has lived in California the last three decades, he still has “deep roots in the Tar Heel State,” he said.
“The idea for the prize came out of my desire to read more fiction or creative nonfiction that hits ‘closer to home,’ work that conveys the rich and varied existence of Black North Carolinians,” he said. “I wanted to provide an incentive for Black writers to document our lives through storytelling.”
The Jacobs/Jones contest will open again for submissions on November 1, 2021. Full competition guidelines can be found at www.ncwriters.org.
W. Ralph Eubanks is the author of Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey Into Mississippi’s Dark Past, The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South, and A Place Like Mississippi, which will be released in 2021. His writing and essays on the American South have appeared in The New Yorker, WIRED, Vanity Fair, and the Oxford American. A 2007 Guggenheim Fellow, he is currently a visiting professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. He divides his time between Oxford, Mississippi, and Washington, DC.
The Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize honors the nineteenth-century writers Harriet Jacobs and Thomas H. Jones. Jacobs was born in 1813 near Edenton, escaping to Philadelphia in 1842, after hiding for seven years in a crawl space above her grandmother’s ceiling. She published her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, under a pseudonym in 1861. Jacobs died in 1897 and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 1997.
Jones was born into slavery near Wilmington in 1806. Able to purchase the freedom of his wife and all but one of his children, he followed them north in 1849 by stowing away on a brig to New York. In the northeast and in Canada, he spoke as a preacher and abolitionist, writing his memoir, The Experience of Thomas Jones, in 1854, as a way to raise funds to buy his eldest child’s freedom.
The non-profit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.