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Last Year’s Jacobs/Jones Runner-Up Is This Year’s Winner

WINSTON-SALEM—After receiving honorable mention in last year’s contest, Brenda C. Wilson of Charlotte has won this year’s Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize for her story “Unburied Dreams Rising.”

Wilson will receive a $1,000 prize, and The Carolina Quarterly will consider “Unburied Dreams Rising” for publication.

Final judge DéLana R. A. Dameron said of Wilson’s story, “‘Unburied Dreams Rising’ is a story about inheritance and home/homeland. For Lacey, the dutiful daughter returned home for her mother’s end-of-life care, ‘holding onto the land had been ingrained in them—the land was their legacy.’ I really enjoyed this story centering around family who are nostalgic for the past, while bracing against family who want to move forward. Through clear and quiet prose, ‘Unburied Dreams Rising’ is a story so many of us inherit and wade through.”

Wilson has an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. Her short stories have appeared in The Maryland Review and Boundoff.  She was a finalist in the Reynolds Price Short Fiction Contest and also in Ebony Magazine’s Gertrude Johnson Williams Literary Contest. Her novel, A Cakewalk to Memphis, was a Quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.

“Rituals of Home” by Mildred Barya of Asheville received Honorable Mention. Dameron said, “A meditative prose piece about nature, and the fragile ecosystem we are entrusted to steward for our futures. ‘Rituals of Home’ is also a story about how we find home wherever we go.”

Barya is a North Carolina-based writer and poet of East African descent. She teaches and lectures globally, and is the author of four full-length poetry collections, most recently The Animals of My Earth School published by Terrapin Books, 2023. Her prose, hybrids, and poems have appeared in New England ReviewShenandoah, JoylandThe Cincinnati Review, Tin House, Forge, and elsewhere. She’s now working on a collection of creative nonfiction, and her essay, “Being Here in This Body,” won the 2020 Linda Flowers Literary Award and was published in the North Carolina Literary Review. She serves on the boards of African Writers Trust, Story Parlor, and coordinates the Poetrio Reading events at Malaprop’s Independent Bookstore/Café.

The Jacobs/Jones contest, sponsored by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, 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.

DéLana R. A. Dameron is an artist whose primary medium is storytelling. Her first book of fiction, Redwood Court, released this month from Random House. She is a graduate of New York University’s MFA program in poetry and holds a BA degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her debut poetry collection, How God Ends Us, was selected by Elizabeth Alexander for the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize, and her second collection, Weary Kingdom, was chosen by Nikky Finney for the Palmetto Poetry Series. Dameron is also the founder of Saloma Acres, an equestrian and cultural space in her hometown in South Carolina, where she resides.

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.

This 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.

“The literary award was borne out of my frustration with being unable to readily find much fiction or creative nonfiction that conveys the rich and varied existence of Black North Carolinians,” Brown said. “I wanted to incentivize the development of written works while also encouraging Black writers to capture our lives through storytelling.”

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.