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Biography Joy Williams

2021 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction

Joy Williams – credit © Knopf 2021

Joy Williams was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, in 1944. She is the acclaimed author of four short story collections, two works of nonfiction and five novels, including the upcoming “Harrow” (Knopf, Sept. 14, 2021).

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden selected Williams as this year’s winner based on nominations from more than 60 distinguished literary figures, including former winners of the prize, acclaimed authors and literary critics from around the world. “I am pleased and honored to confer this prize on Joy Williams, in celebration of her almost half-century of extraordinary work,” Hayden said. “Her work reveals the strange and unsettling grace just beneath the surface of our lives. In a story, a moment, a single sentence, it can force us to reimagine how we see ourselves, how we understand each other — and how we relate to the natural world.”

“This is a wonderful award and one that inspires much humility,” Williams said. “The American story is wild, uncapturable and discomfiting, and our fiction — our literature — is poised to challenge and deeply change us as it becomes ever more inclusive and ecocentric.”

Williams’ many honors include the Rea Award for the Short Story and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was elected a member of the Academy in 2008, and she has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Upon hearing the news, Don DeLillo, the 2013 recipient of the Library’s Fiction Prize, said, “The fiction of Joy Williams reminds me how lucky I am to be an American writer. She writes strong, steady and ever-unexpected narratives, word by word, sentence by sentence. This is the American language and she is an expert practitioner.”

Selected Works at the Library of Congress