2021 NSK Neustadt Laureate
Cynthia Leitich Smith is the 2021 NSK Neustadt laureate and a New York Times best-selling author of books for young readers, including Hearts Unbroken, which won the American Indian Library Association’s Youth Literature Award. Her 2021 releases are the middle grade anthology Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids and novel Sisters of the Neversea. She is also the author-curator of Heartdrum, a Native-focused imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books, and serves as the Katherine Paterson Inaugural Endowed Chair on the faculty of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Cynthia is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and lives in Austin, Texas.
Meredith Bigheart-Seagraves (Osage) teaches first-year composition at the University of Central Oklahoma. Her courses are designed specifically for Native students and members of the Native American Success Initiative. She has presented papers at many national conferences, including the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the American Literature Association Annual Conference, the College English Association Annual Conference, and the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Annual Convention. Her research interests include ethnic American literature, Native American literature, and memoir.
Laura Bolf-Beliveau is a professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma where she teaches classes in secondary methods, young adult literature, and first year composition. She is a former high school English teacher with over fifteen years of experience in urban, rural, and suburban districts. Dr. Bolf-Beliveau has published in the areas of social justice, identity formation, and feminism. She has also published book chapters connecting theory to television, young adult literature, and horror novels. Most recently, her chapter “Monsters Matter: Reimagining Caliban Using Monster Theory” appeared in Shakespeare and Young Adult Literature: Pairing and Teaching. The chapter focuses on how Akwaeke Emezi’s young adult novel, Pet, challenges problematic stereotypes of the “monstrous other.” Laura was a team leader and writer of Oklahoma’s 2016 ELA standards. Additionally, she has worked on numerous Oklahoma Regents grants that helped alternatively certified teachers implement critical thinking and argumentative writing in metro-area schools.
Monica Brown is the author of many multicultural picture books, including Waiting for the Biblioburro, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina, Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano / Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello, and Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. Monica’s work has been honored with Américas Awards, the Christopher Award, an Orbis Pictus honor, starred reviews, and named to many best-of lists. Her books have been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, and on NPR. She is the author of the acclaimed Lola Levine chapter book series, the first of which was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Book of the Year, a School Library Journal Top 10 Latin@ Book, and one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing. Her newest release is Small Room, Big Dreams: The Journey of Julián and Joaquin Castro, illustrated by Mirelle Ortega. She is a professor of English at Northern Arizona University.
Jennifer Croft won the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing for her illustrated memoir, Homesick, and the Man Booker International Prize for her translation from Polish of Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights. She is also the author of Serpientes y escaleras and Notes on Postcards as well as numerous pieces in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Paris Review Daily, the New York Review Daily, and elsewhere. Her other translations include Romina Paula’s August, Federico Falco’s A Perfect Cemetery, Pedro Mairal’s The Woman from Uruguay, and Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob. She holds a PhD in comparative literary studies from Northwestern University.
Tarfia Faizullah is the author of two poetry collections, Registers of Illuminated Villages (Graywolf, 2018) and Seam (SIU, 2014). In 2016 Tarfia was recognized by Harvard Law School as one of 50 Women Inspiring Change. Tarfia is a 2019 United States Artists Fellow and lives in Dallas, Texas.
Annawake Grubbs (Osage) teaches eighth-grade English at Cimarron Middle School in Edmond, Oklahoma. She recently participated in a panel discussion through Edmond Public Schools, speaking on the importance of cultural representation within curriculum and empathy in the classroom. She serves on various committees for Edmond Public Schools and Cimarron Middle School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Central Oklahoma, where she presented a paper at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research.
Hamid Ismailov was born into a deeply religious Uzbek family of mullahs and khojas living in Kyrgyzstan, many of whom had lost their lives during the Stalin-era persecutions. Yet he received an exemplary Soviet education, graduating with distinction from both his secondary school and military college, as well as attaining university degrees in a number of disciplines. Though he could have become a high-flying Soviet or post-Soviet apparatchik, instead his fate led him to become a dissident writer and poet residing in the West. He was the BBC World Service’s first writer in residence. Critics have compared his books to the best of Russian classics, Sufi parables, and works of Western postmodernism. While his writing reflects all of these and many other strands, it is his unique intercultural experience that excites and draws the reader into his world. His most recent book in English, Manaschi, was published by Tilted Axis in 2021.
Fowzia Karimi is a writer and an illustrator. Her illuminated debut novel, Above Us the Milky Way, was released in 2020. She has illustrated Faust, by Johann Wolfgang van Goethe (translated by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner); The Brick House, by Micheline Aharonian Marcom; and Vagrants and Uncommon Visitors, by A. Kendra Greene. She is a recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award.
Eleni Kefala is a poet and academic from Cyprus. She is the author of Μνήμη και παραλλαγές (Memory and variations, 2007) and Χρονορραφία (Time stitches, 2013). She has been a finalist for the Diavazo First-Time Author Award in Greece and winner of the State Prize for Poetry in Cyprus. Her poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies in Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, France, Turkey, and the United States, while Time Stitches is forthcoming in English, translated by Peter Constantine, from Deep Vellum. Eleni was born in Athens, grew up in Cyprus, studied in Nicosia and Cambridge, and currently makes her home in Scotland, where she teaches Latin American and comparative literature at the University of St Andrews.
R. O. Kwon’s nationally best-selling first novel, The Incendiaries, published by Riverhead, is being translated into seven languages. Named a best book of the year by over forty publications, The Incendiaries received the Housatonic Book Award and was a finalist or nominated for seven other prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle First Book Award. Kwon was named one of four “writers to watch” by the New York Times, and she has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Yaddo, and MacDowell. Kwon and Garth Greenwell co-edited the nationally best-selling Kink, an anthology published by Simon & Schuster.
Carlos Labbé is the author of nine novels, most recently Viaje a Partagua (2021). His Spiritual Choreographies, Loquela, and Navidad & Matanza are available in English translation. He also has published two short-story collections, a book of essays, and scattered poems. He co-wrote the screenplays of two feature films, Malta con huevo and El nombre. Also a musician, Labbé was part of the bands Ex Fiesta and Tornasólidos and has put out five solo albums in the streaming services. With a master’s degree in Latin American literature, Labbé works as a copyeditor and has been part of the publishing collective Sangría for twelve years.
Kathy Neustadt lives in Denver and is a freelance field producer for ABC News. Before television, she worked in radio broadcasting in the mountains of Colorado for five years before going to work at KCNC-TV in Denver as a news writer. Kathy works extensively in not-for-profits in the Denver area. She is on the board of trustees at the Rose Community Foundation in Denver, current board chair of the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, and the former chair and longtime board member of the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center. In 2012 Kathy endowed what is now the Neustadt JAAMM Festival, which features Jewish authors, speakers, music, and film at the JCC every fall. She attended the University of Oklahoma and graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in mass communications. She loves to ski and hike in the Rockies and has two children, Tess and Josh Hankin.
Carlos Pintado is a Cuban American writer, playwright, and award-winning poet. His book Habitación a oscuras received the prestigious Sant Jordi’s International Prize for Poetry, and his book El azar y los tesoros was one of the finalists for Spain’s Adonais Prize. In 2014 Pintado was awarded the Paz Prize for Poetry for his new book, Nine coins / Nueve monedas, given by the National Poetry Series published by Akashic Books. Pintado’s published books include Los bosques de Mortefontaine, Habitación a oscuras, Los Nombres de la noche, El Unicornio y otros poemas, Cuaderno del falso amor impuro, Taubenschlag, and La sed del último que mira. Some of his works have been translated into English, Italian, German, French, Turkish, Portuguese, and Italian and have appeared in the New York Times, American Poetry Review, World Literature Today, Latin American Literature Today, and Vogue, among others. Classical music groups like the San Francisco Chorus, Continuum Ensemble, and the South Beach Music Ensemble have performed his poetry.
Matthew Shenoda is a writer, professor, university administrator, and author and editor of several books. His debut collection of poems, Somewhere Else (Coffee House Press), was named one of 2005’s debut books of the year by Poets & Writers magazine and was winner of a 2006 American Book Award. He is also the author of Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone (BOA Editions ); editor of Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems, by Kwame Dawes; and most recently author of Tahrir Suite: Poems (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press), winner of the 2015 Arab American Book Award and, with Kwame Dawes, editor of Bearden’s Odyssey: Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2017). He is currently the associate provost for social equity and inclusion and professor of literary arts and studies at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he directs the Center for Social Equity and Inclusion. Additionally, Shenoda is a founding editor of the African Poetry Book Fund.
Poet David Shook’s translations from Spanish include books by Mario Bellatin, Tedi López Mills, Jorge Eduardo Eielson, and Pablo Jofré. Raised in Mexico City, they earned a BA at the University of Oklahoma and an MSt at Oxford University. In 2013 they founded the nonprofit publishing house Phoneme Media, which has since published books translated from twenty-six different languages, including the first ever literary translations from languages like Lingala and Uyghur. Their new verse collection, Atlas estelar, is forthcoming.
Heather Shotton (Wichita/Kiowa/Cheyenne) is associate professor and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies and the director of Indigenous Education Initiatives in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Shotton’s scholarship engages with Indigenous higher education, Indigenous college students, and Indigenous feminisms in academia. Her scholarship and practice have been dedicated to bringing visibility to Indigenous people and issues in higher education and transforming higher education as a site of reclamation for Indigenous communities. She served as a co-editor for three critical books that address Indigenous higher education: Beyond the Asterisk: Understanding Native Students in Higher Education (Stylus), Reclaiming Indigenous Research in Higher Education (Rutgers University Press), and Beyond Access: Indigenizing Programs for Native American Student Success (Stylus). She is a strong advocate for Indigenous education and has spent her career advocating for Indigenous students and communities in educational systems.
Anastasia Wickham is an associate professor of English and English Education co-coordinator at the University of Central Oklahoma. Her recent publications focus on literary and popular portrayals of gender and mental illness during adolescence, including “Villainous or Vindicated: Postmodern Characterization of Women in YA Fairy Tales” in Children’s and YA Literature and Culture: Broadening Critical Boundaries and “It’s All in Your Head: Portraying Schizophrenia in YA Literature” in the Journal of Popular Culture.
Kimberly Wieser is associate chair and an associate professor of English at the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Wieser is an affiliated faculty member with Native American Studies and Environmental Studies and is the national director for Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, housed at OU since 1991. She is the author of Back to the Blanket: Recovered Rhetorics and Literacies in American Indian Studies (part of the Recovering Languages and Literacies of the Americas Initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; winner of the Louis Little Coon Oliver First Book Award for Prose 2004), published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2017. Under her previous name, Kimberly Roppolo, she was one of the co-authors of Reasoning Together: The Native Critics Collective (2008), named one of the most important books in her field in the first decade of the twenty-first century by NAISA. Her poetry collection Texas . . . to Get Horses was published by That Painted Horse Press in 2019. She is the recipient of a National Humanities Center Summer Fellowship (2020/deferred to 2022) for her manuscript in progress “War Began to Kindle and Was Cruelly Fought”: Historical Poems from The DeSoto Chronicles.
Olga Zilberbourg’s English-language debut, Like Water and Other Stories (WTAW Press), explores “bicultural identity hilariously, poignantly,” according to the Moscow Times. Zilberbourg’s fiction and essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Bare Life Review, The Believer, Confrontation, Electric Literature, Lit Hub, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. Born in Leningrad, USSR, she grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia, and makes her home in San Francisco, California. Zilberbourg has published three Russian-language collections of stories, the latest of which, Хлоп-страна (The clapping land), appeared in 2016 from Moscow-based Vremya Press. She serves as a consulting editor at Narrative Magazine and as a co-facilitator of the San Francisco Writers Workshop. Together with Yelena Furman, she co-founded Punctured Lines, a feminist blog about literature from the former Soviet Union.