Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Acclaimed Writer
Long-listed for the Nat'l Book Award

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Biography

“Honorée Jeffers leads with her ear and follows with her rigorous intellect, then adds an emotional depth and fearlessness that make her poems uniquely powerful.” –Elizabeth Alexander

“Jeffers enacts Phillis’s life anew, lending texture to her work and force to the presence that she left behind.” –The New Yorker

“If Love Songs isn’t the Great American Novel, it’s a mighty attempt at achieving one.” –Kirkus Reviews

For over twenty years, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has been lifting her voice on issues of Black culture, racism, American history, and gender through the medium of writing.

Jeffers is author of the novel The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois (2021); an Oprah’s Book Club pick, Love Songs was an instant New York Times bestseller, long-listed for the National Book Award in Fiction, a finalist for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, nominated for an NAACP Image Award, short-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, finalist for the Kirkus Prize in Fiction, the recipient of starred reviews from Kirkus Review, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly, and was included in Booklist’s “Top Ten First Novels of 2021.” The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois follows its protagonist, Ailey, on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors—Indigenous, Black, and White—in the deep South. In doing so, Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story—and the song—of America itself.

An award-winning poet, her most recent collection, The Age of Phillis (2020) was long-listed for the National Book Award in Poetry, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry, was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award in Poetry, and won both the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. The Age of Phillis imagines the life and times of poet Phillis Wheatley Peters and the era surrounding her, one that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade. She is also the author of four other critically acclaimed books of poetry, including: The Gospel of Barbecue (Kent State, 2000); Outlandish Blues (Wesleyan, 2003); Red Clay Suite (Southern Illinois, 2007); and The Glory Gets (Wesleyan, 2015), about which Kwame Dawes says, “Her poems—about lynching, lost love, racism, the challenges of being a Black woman are intelligent and sophisticated examinations of very complex issues. The collection is a wonderful wisdom book that is openly vulnerable, uncertain, and yet full of remarkable grace.”

Her essays and fiction stories have appeared in Black Renaissance Noire, Callaloo, Common-Place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, Indiana Review, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, the Poetry Foundation, StoryQuarterly, and Virginia Quarterly Review. And her poetry can be found in the American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Iowa Review, The New York Times, Poetry, and Prairie Schooner. Jeffers’ writing has been anthologized in The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks on Race and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She is the recipient of fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress, and in 2021, Jeffers was granted a United States Artist Fellowship. She was also the winner of the Emerging Fiction Fellowship from the Aspen Summer Words Conference and recently, she was honored with the 2018 Harper Lee Award for Literary Distinction and was inducted into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame in 2020; both notations recognize lifetime achievement.

A native southerner, Jeffers has lived on the prairie since 2002, where she is a Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma.

Short Bio

For over twenty years, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has been lifting her voice on issues of Black culture, racism, American history, and gender through the medium of writing. Jeffers is author of the novel The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois (2021); an Oprah’s Book Club pick, Love Songs was long-listed for the National Book Award in Fiction, short-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize in Fiction. An award-winning poet, her most recent collection, The Age of Phillis (2020) was long-listed for the National Book Award in Poetry, and won both the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. She is also the author of the poetry collections, The Gospel of Barbecue (2000); Outlandish Blues (2003); Red Clay Suite (2007); and The Glory Gets (2015). She is the recipient of fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress, Aspen Summer Words Conference, and in 2021, Jeffers was granted a United States Artist Fellowship. Recently, she was inducted into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame. Jeffers is a Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma.

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