Writing, Literature and Publishing Professor Jerald Walker was named a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Creative Writing Fellow today, one of only 36 authors chosen out of nearly 1,700 applicants.
The Fellowship comes with $25,000 to help writers with the creation, research, revision, and promotion of their work. Walker, who teaches Creative Nonfiction workshops at Emerson College, is currently at work on a collection of essays.
“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to provide crucial funding to support these writers in their creative endeavors and to continue expanding the range of ideas and viewpoints available to readers,” NEA Director of Literature Amy Stolls said in a statement.
Walker thanked the NEA for the Fellowship.
“The NEA has a long record of supporting writers at critical junctures of their careers, and I am exceedingly grateful to receive their affirmation of my work,” he said.
Tentatively titled Dragon Slayers, Walker’s upcoming book features essays about his two sons, ages 15 and 17, his family, and his life as a college professor. It’s intended as a continuation of his two previous memoirs, Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption (2011) and The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult (2016), which cover Walker’s life from about the age of 6 up until the birth of his children, he said.
Walker said most memoirs, including his, are written about and because of hardships or difficulties in life – Street Shadows is about his journey from the “thug life” in Chicago to his embrace of education and middle-class life; The World in Flames recounts his childhood growing up in Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God during the 1960s and ‘70s.
In the process of writing his life’s story, Walker said, he’s realized “how genuinely fortunate I’ve been, despite the obstacles I’ve encountered.”
His sons haven’t read his two memoirs in their entirety yet (though, “I have a great suspicion they have secretly read them.”), but they definitely have read many of his essays about them, and don’t mind being the center of their father’s work, he said.
“They like it, they get a kick out of it,” Walker said. “In fact, they helped me write the prologue of the most recent book.”
In addition to the memoirs, Walker, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, has been published in Creative Nonfiction, The Missouri Review, The Harvard Review, Mother Jones, The Iowa Review, and The Oxford American, and has been anthologized four times in The Best American Essays. Street Shadows was the recipient of the 2011 PEN New England/L.L. Winship Award for Nonfiction, and named a Best Memoir of the Year by Kirkus Reviews.
Prior to teaching at Emerson, Walker was a visiting professor in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies at MIT, and in the MFA in Nonfiction Program at the University of Iowa.