WNCHA announces 5 finalists for 2021 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award

Press release from the Western North Carolina Historical Association:

The Western North Carolina Historical Association announces the selection of five finalists for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. Originated by the Louis Lipinsky family and now also supported by Ruth Siegel and Jacques Sartisky Foundation and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Board, the Award has been presented annually by the Western North Carolina Historical Association since 1955 for printed works that focus special attention on Western North Carolina. In order to more broadly support the writers of Western North Carolina, a December 9, 2021 award ceremony will celebrate all five finalists.

To be considered, an entry must be a published work of fiction, nonfiction, drama or poetry and meet the following criteria:

  1. It must be a first edition work; revised editions of published works will not be considered.
  2. The publication date must be in the calendar year 2020 or no later than July 15, 2021.
  3. The author must be a native of western North Carolina or a resident of western NC for at least twelve months prior to the closing date for the Award.
  4. An author may also qualify if the work submitted has a focus on or setting in western NC.

The WNC Historical Association presented the first Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award to Wilma Dykeman in 1955 for The French Broad. Last year’s winner was Dr. Sandra Muse Isaacs for her work, Eastern Cherokee Stories: A Living Oral Tradition and Its Cultural Continuance. Other authors who have received the award include Charles Frazier, Robert Morgan, John Parris, Gail Godwin, John Ehle, Robert Brunk, Michael McFee, Lee Smith, Ron Rash, Wiley Cash, Wayne Caldwell, Fiona Ritchie, and Doug Orr.

A prize of $2,500.00 accompanies the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award and will be virtually presented to the author on Thursday, December 9 at 6:30pm during a live Zoom event that will include readings by the finalists. Please reserve this date.

The Award Panel this year consists of: Catherine Frank, Chair, Director, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville; Daniel Clare, English Department, A.C. Reynolds High School; Dee James, professor emeritus, UNC-Asheville; Leslee Johnson, English Department, UNC-Asheville; Tom Muir, Historic Site Manager, Thomas Wolfe Memorial; Gordon McKinney, professor emeritus, Berea College; Terry Roberts, Director, National Paideia Center; and Jim Stokely, President, Wilma Dykeman Legacy.

This year’s finalists were chosen from an original group of 40 nominations. The finalists, listed below, encompass a broad range of genres and forms.

Mary Othella Burnette

Lige of the Black Walnut Tree: Growing Up Black in Southern Appalachia

Wayne Caldwell


Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle

Even As We Breathe: A Novel

Vicki Lane

And the Crows Took Their Eyes

Matthew Wimberley

All the Great Territories

The Western North Carolina Historical Association is a nonprofit with a mission of promoting and preserving regional history.  For more information, please call WNCHA at 828.253.9231 or visit www.wnchistory.org.

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