Jamaica Kincaid is 2021 CCNY Langston Hughes Medal recipient

Award-winning author and scholar Jamaica Kincaid receives the 2021 Langston Hughes Medal from The City College of New York in a virtual ceremony on Nov. 18.

The medal is awarded to highly distinguished writers from throughout the African American diaspora at CCNY's annual Langston Hughes Festival, which is celebrating its 43rd anniversary this year. It recognizes honorees for their impressive works of poetry, fiction, drama, autobiography and critical essays that help to celebrate the memory and tradition of Langston Hughes. Past award winners include:

James Baldwin;
Gwendolyn Brooks;
Toni Morrison;
August Wilson;
Maya Angelou;
Octavia Butler;
Zadie Smith;
Michael Eric Dyson; and
Rita Dove.

Born in St. John's, Antigua, Kincaid was a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine (1974 – 1996) when she published her first book, a collection of short stories titled “At the Bottom of the River,” in 1983. Her first novel, “Annie John,” followed in 1985. It was the story of a wilful 10-year-old growing up on the Caribbean Island of Antigua.

Further novels followed. “Lucy” (1990), is the story of a teenage girl from the Caribbean who comes to North America to work as an au pair for a wealthy family; “The Autobiography of My Mother” (1996), is a story set in Dominica and told by a 70-year-old woman looking back on her life; and “Mr. Potter” (2007),  follows the life of an illiterate taxi chauffeur.

Kincaid released “A Small Place” in 1988, a short, powerful book about the effects of colonialism, and “My Brother” in 1997, a chronicle of her brother’s battle with AIDS. Her love of gardening has also led to several books on the subject, including “My Garden” (2000) and “Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya” (2005), a memoir about a seed-gathering trek with three botanist friends. “Among Flowers” was re-released in late 2020 with a new introduction by the author.

Her novel “See Now Then” (2013) won the Before Columbus Foundation America Book Award in 2014. Her numerous other awards include the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Dan David Prize for Literature, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund Award, a Guggenheim Foundation award, and the Prix Femina Etranger Award.

Kincaid teaches in the English, African and African American Studies departments at Harvard University.

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Jay Mwamba
p: 212.650.7580
e: jmwamba@ccny.cuny.edu