“Black Sheep Boy,” the chronicle of a young gay man in Louisiana’s Cajun bayou, by California State University, Northridge English professor Martin Pousson, is one of five national finalists for the 2018 Simpson Family Literary Prize.
The award, established in 2016, recognizes mid-career authors in fiction with a prize of $50,000. The prize is administered by the Simpson Family Literary Project — a collaboration of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation, and the University of California, Berkeley, English department. The five finalists were selected by an anonymous jury from authors confidentially nominated by distinguished critics, authors, professors, booksellers and book reviewers around the country.
“Our distinguished Simpson Prize finalists embody the inspiring richness and vitality of storytelling in our country,” said Joseph Di Prisco, chair of the Simpson Family Literary Project. “The Simpson Literary Project, with our investment in writing across a great social and generational spectrum, speaks to the highest ideals of both the Lafayette Library and Learning Center and the UC Berkeley English department. We celebrate stories and their makers, we affirm the best of our diverse culture and underscore our shared humanity.”
Pousson was born and raised in Acadiana, the Cajun bayou land of Louisiana. “Black Sheep Boy,” his novel-in-stories, won the PEN Center USA Fiction Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and it was featured on NPR’s “The Reading Life” as a Los Angeles Times Literary Pick and as a Book Riot Must-Read Indie Press Book.
“The book is very much about defending a queer identity that is both personally and socially queer,” Pousson said. “It’s about a teenager who pushes against assimilation and conformity and remains an individual, which is also a fight for the Cajun culture and all people who are outsiders.”
The prize winner is expected to be named early this month. The recipient will give readings in the Bay Area in October 2018 and participate in a two-week residence in Lafayette and Berkeley, during the spring semester 2019.
The Simpson Family Literary Project is an innovative private and public partnership between the University of California, the Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation, and the Contra Costa County Library. The project fosters new literature, supports authors and enhances the lives of readers, writers, educators and students in diverse communities in California and the nation. The project serves high school-age writers and supports a writer-in-residence program at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation.