Jason Epstein

Jason Epstein has led one of the most creative careers in book publishing of the past half century. In 1952, while a young editor at Doubleday, he created Anchor Books, which launched the so-called ‘paperback revolution’ and established the trade paperback format. In the following decade he became co-founder of The New York Review of Books.

Jason Epstein has led one of the most creative careers in book publishing of the past half century. In 1952, while a young editor at Doubleday, he created Anchor Books, which launched the so-called ‘paperback revolution’ and established the trade paperback format. In the following decade he became co-founder of The New York Review of Books. In 1979,  with the critic Edmund Wilson,  he created the Library of America, the prestigious publisher of American classics, and The Reader’s Catalog, the precursor of online bookselling. For many years, Jason Epstein was editorial director of Random House. He was the first recipient of the National Book Award for Distinguished Service to American Letters and was given the Curtis Benjamin Award for ‘inventing new kinds of publishing and editing.’ In 2001 he received the National Book Critics Circle’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. He has edited many well-known novelists, including Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, E. L. Doctorow, Philip Roth, and Gore Vidal, as well as many important writers of nonfiction.

Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo is the author of fifteen novels and a novella, including the National Book Award Winner White Noise; two National Book Award Finalists, Libra and Underworld, and the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning Mao II. In addition to his novels, DeLillo has published a collection of short stories, several plays, and a screenplay. He has received many honors, including the Library of Congress’s Prize for American Fiction and the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.

Born in 1936, Don DeLillo grew up in The Bronx and graduated from Fordham University. He wrote his first work of fiction while working as an advertising copywriter and published his first novel, Americana, in 1971. Since then he has produced fourteen novels, one novella, five plays, and many stories and essays. In 1985, DeLillo’s eighth novel, White Noise, won a National Book Award. In 1988 his novel Libra was selected as a National Book Award Finalist and received the first Irish Times International Fiction Prize. His novel Underworld was selected as both a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize Finalist and received the William Dean Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, given for the best novel published in the previous five years; in 2006 Underworld was placed number two on the New York Times’s list of “The Best Books of the Last 25 Years,” (after Toni Morrison’s Beloved). DeLillo’s novel Mao II received the 1992 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist. His short story collection, The Angel Esmeralda, was a Finalist for both the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award and the 2011 Story Prize.

DeLillo’s plays have premiered in London, Chicago, and Massachusetts. His novel Libra was adapted for the stage and directed by John Malkovich at the Steppenwolf Theater. Steppenwolf also commissioned “The Word for Snow” for the Chicago Humanities Festival.

Among DeLillo’s other awards and honors are the 1999 Jerusalem Prize, the international literary prize awarded to a writer whose work expresses the theme of the freedom of the individual in society, the first American to be so honored. In 2010, he received the PEN/Saul Bellow Prize for Achievement in American Fiction and in 2012 the Chicago Public Library’s Carl Sandburg Literary Award, both for lifetime achievement.

DeLillo lives in Westchester County, New York.

Joan Didion

Joan Didion’s five novels are Run River (1963), Play It As It Lays (1970), A Book of Common Prayer (1977), Democracy (1984), and The Last Thing He Wanted (1996). Her nonfiction books are Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), The White Album (1978), Salvador (1983), Miami (1987), After Henry (1992), Political Fictions (2001), Where I Was From (2003) and The Year of Magical Thinking(2005), a memoir, which won the National Book Award.

Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, California in 1934 and has been a novelist, essayist and screenwriter for more than three decades.

Her five novels are Run River (1963), Play It As It Lays (1970), A Book of Common Prayer (1977), Democracy (1984), and The Last Thing He Wanted (1996). Her nonfiction books are Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), The White Album (1978), Salvador (1983), Miami (1987), After Henry (1992), Political Fictions (2001), Where I Was From (2003) and The Year of Magical Thinking(2005), a memoir, which won the National Book Award. Ms. Didion adapted her memoir into a Broadway play starring Vanessa Redgrave. She is a contributor to The New York Review of Booksand The New Yorker. Ms. Didion and her late husband, John Gregory Dunne, co-authored several screenplays. In 2005, Didion received the Gold Medal for Belles Lettres from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which is the highest honor the Academy awards to a writer. She lives in New York City.

Maxine Hong Kingston

Maxine Hong Kingston was born to Chinese immigrant parents in Stockton, California in 1940 and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. A long-time member of the Berkeley faculty, she is currently Senior Lecturer for Creative Writing. Her nonfiction books include The Woman Warrior, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, China Men.

Maxine Hong Kingston was born to Chinese immigrant parents in Stockton, California in 1940 and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. A long-time member of the Berkeley faculty, she is currently Senior Lecturer for Creative Writing.

Her nonfiction books include The Woman Warrior, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, China Men, which was awarded the National Book Award in 1981, Hawaii One Summer, Through the Black Curtain, To Be the Poet, and The Fifth Book of Peace. She has written one novel, Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book. Kingston is the recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature and a National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the title of “Living Treasure of Hawaii.”

Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel (1912–2008) was an award-winning author and radio broadcaster. He was a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters and a recipient of a Presidential National Humanities Medal, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a George Polk Career Award, and the National Book Critics Circle 2003 Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

Studs Terkel (1912–2008) was an award-winning author and radio broadcaster. He is the author of Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession; Division Street: America, Coming of Age: Growing Up in the Twentieth Century; Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times; “The Good War”: An Oral History of World War II; Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do; The Studs Terkel Reader: My American Century; American Dreams: Lost and Found; The Studs Terkel Interviews: Film and Theater; Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression; Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith; Giants of Jazz; Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Troubled Times; And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey; Touch and Go: A Memoir; P.S.: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening; and Studs Terkel’s Chicago, all published by The New Press. He was a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters and a recipient of a Presidential National Humanities Medal, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a George Polk Career Award, and the National Book Critics Circle 2003 Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin defied conventions of narrative, language, character, and genre, and transcended the boundaries between fantasy and realism to forge new paths for literary fiction. Among the nation’s most revered writers of science fiction and fantasy, Le Guin’s fully imagined worlds challenge readers to consider profound philosophical and existential questions about gender, race, the environment, and society. Her boldly experimental and critically acclaimed novels, short stories, and children’s books, written in elegant prose, are popular with millions of readers around the world.

Born in 1929 in Berkeley, California, and educated at Radcliffe College and Columbia University, Ursula K. Le Guin published her first novel, Rocannon’s World, in 1966. Over the course of her literary career, Le Guin has published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, seven books of poetry, four collections of essays, thirteen books for children, and five works of translation. Her first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, established Le Guin’s reputation for daring experimentation and her internationally best-selling Books of Earthsea have been translated into thirty-one languages.

The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Le Guin won a National Book Award in 1973 for The Farthest Shore, and was a Finalist in 1972 for The Tombs of Atuan and in 1985 for Always Coming Home. Le Guin also has received a PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction, a Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, twenty-one Locus Awards, six Nebula Awards, five Hugo Awards, three Asimov’s Readers Awards, a Pushcart Prize, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and a Newbery Silver Medal. Le Guin’s lifetime achievement awards include the title of Grand Master from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the Willamette Writers Lifetime Achievement Award, the Los Angeles Times’ Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award, the University of California-Riverside’s Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Maxine Cushing Gray Fellowship for distinguished body of work from the Washington Center for the Book.

Le Guin lives in Portland, Oregon.

Karen Tei Yamashita

2021 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL) recipient
Karen Tei Yamashita is the internationally acclaimed author of eight books, all published by Coffee House Press, including I Hotel, Anime Wong, Sansei and Sensibility, and Through the Arc of the Rain Forest.

2021 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL) recipient

Karen Tei Yamashita is the internationally acclaimed author of eight books, all published by Coffee House Press, including I Hotel, Anime Wong, Sansei and Sensibility, and Through the Arc of the Rain Forest. In prose brimming with electric narrative energy, she employs humor, politics, sardonic wit, and lush polyvocality to invite readers into her nuanced but accessible literary worlds; her writing evinces a breathtaking capacity to transform conventions in genre, voice, intertextuality, and characterization, grounded in the skillful application of traditional literary techniques. She currently serves as Professor Emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she has taught literature and creative writing for many years.

In her various roles as a public intellectual—author, lecturer, teacher, mentor—Yamashita models a deep desire to understand and to embrace life as she finds it. Her narratives roam across three continents, drawing from personal history and the artistic, cultural, and historical cartographies of Asia, Britain and Europe, and the Americas. Her body of work has been credited with transforming the approach toward Asian American literary and cultural studies from one that is U.S.-centric to one that is hemispheric and transnational. Yamashita’s creativity and prescience—seen in her protean body of work—helped to bring about that sea change in American literature, too.

Yamashita was born on January 8, 1951, in Oakland, California, to Hiroshi John Yamashita and Asako Sakai, both survivors of incarceration at the Topaz internment camp during World War II. When she was a year old, Yamashita’s family moved to Los Angeles, where she grew up with her sister, Jane. Yamashita later attended Carleton College and studied at Waseda University in Tokyo, earning degrees in English and Japanese literature, and graduating Phi Beta Kappa.

After college, Yamashita was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to travel to São Paulo for research on the extensive history of Japanese immigration to Brazil. There, Yamashita formed a study of Japanese Brazilian agricultural life, conducting interviews with Japanese immigrants, their descendants, and members of a commune. She remained in Brazil for a decade, during which she began writing fiction and plays, married Brazilian architect Ronaldo Lopes de Oliveira, and had two children, Jane and Jon. On her return to Los Angeles in 1984, Yamashita worked on translations and screenplays, and produced dramatic works such as Hannah Kusoh: An American Butoh, Tokyo Carmen vs. L.A. Carmen, and Noh Bozos, which she has linked to the content and style of her novel Tropic of Orange.

Yamashita has received numerous prestigious accolades for her creative works, including a Rockefeller Playwright-in-Residence Fellowship for Omen: An American Kabuki, the 1991 American Book Award, and the 1992 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for her first novel, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest. Her 2010 novel, I Hotel, received an American Book Award, California Book Award, Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and an Association for Asian American Studies Book Award, and was a Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction. In 2019, Yamashita received a second Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for her documentary memoir, Letters to Memory.

From 2012 to 2015, Yamashita was co-holder, with Bettina Aptheker, of the UC Presidential Chair in Feminist Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. In 2017, Yamashita delivered a keynote address at the inaugural Asian American Literature Festival, hosted by the Asian Pacific American Center, the Smithsonian, and the Library of Congress. In 2018, she received a VONA – Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation Tribute, and in 2019, a John Dos Passos Prize for Literature. The Karen Tei Yamashita Papers, which archive and document her career, are housed at the McHenry Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Karen Tei Yamashita’s work forges experience and imagination into exhilarating literary experiments both revolutionary and deeply tied to history. Drawing together matters artistic, intellectual, and political into some of the most innovative and adventurous literary art produced today, Yamashita has established herself as a leading voice in American letters. She lives in Santa Cruz, California, where she is working on Santa Cruz Nori—half original stories by Yamashita, half essays on the liminal, occupied lands of U.S. history, edited by Angie Sijun Lou—forthcoming from Coffee House Press.

Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx is an acclaimed author of award-winning and best-selling novels and short story collections, including The Shipping News, Postcards, and “Brokeback Mountain,” was honored with the Foundation’s Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2017 for her exceptional work and significant impact on American literature.

Annie Proulx was born in Connecticut in 1935 and attended Colby College and the University of Vermont. She graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Vermont in 1969, earning a bachelor’s degree in History. After graduation, Proulx continued her studies, completing a master’s degree and beginning a doctorate at Concordia University. As a graduate student, she published a number of fiction stories in Seventeen. Proulx left academia before completing her doctorate, turning instead to nonfiction writing. Proulx’s first published books were practical manuals on how to grow fruits and vegetables, make cider, and build fences. During this time, Proulx also founded, wrote, and edited The Vershire Behind The Times, a local newspaper for her small town in Vermont.

In 1988, Proulx made her literary debut with her first short story collection, Heart Songs and Other Stories, which explores the lives of rural, small town America, a topic she frequently returns to. Proulx quickly followed up her short story collection with her debut novel, Postcards. In 1992, Postcards won the 13th Annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, making Proulx the first woman to receive the prestigious award. One year later, Proulx’s second novel, The Shipping News, earned the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and The Irish Times International Fiction Prize. With her short story collections, Close Range: Wyoming Stories; Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2; and Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3, Proulx has dedicated herself to presenting readers with a powerful, introspective glimpse at life in the rural west. In 1997, Proulx’s short story, “Brokeback Mountain,” centered around two cowboys who develop a secret, powerful, life-long bond, was published in The New Yorker, earning her a National Magazine Award and the first of two O. Henry Awards. In 2005, “Brokeback Mountain” was adapted into an Academy Award winning film that Rolling Stone named one of the top 10 films of the decade.

In 2011, Proulx published her memoir, Birdcloud: A Memoir of Place, which provided readers with an astonishing window to Proulx’s remarkable connection with the American west. Best known for her evocative fiction about rural America, Proulx’s writing has an impressive lyricism and wit that captivates readers of all ages. Proulx has received honorary doctorate degrees from Concordia University and the Universities of Maine, Toronto, Vermont, and Montreal.

In her acceptance speech for the 1993 National Book Award, Proulx said, “There’s a point in your life when you quit expecting wonderful and delightful things to happen to you, and I passed that point a long time ago.” Fortunately for millions readers around the world, Proulx has yet to hit that point.

Proulx lives in Seattle, Washington.

David McCullough

David McCullough has been acclaimed as a “master of the art of narrative history.” He is the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

David McCullough has been acclaimed as a “master of the art of narrative history.” He is the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

His most recent book, the widely praised The Wright Brothers, was a #1 New York Times bestseller and remained on the list for nine months. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, also a #1 bestseller, has been called “dazzling…history to be savored.” His 1776 has been acclaimed “a classic,” while John Adams, published in 2001, remains one of the most praised and widely read American biographies of all time.

In the words of the citation accompanying his honorary degree from Yale, “As an historian, he paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breathe, and above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement, and moral character.”

Mr. McCullough’s other books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path Between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Brave Companions, and Truman. His books have been published in nineteen languages and—as may be said of few writers—none of his books has ever been out of print.

David McCullough is as well a two-time winner of the Francis Parkman Prize, and for his work overall he has been honored by the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the National Humanities Medal, and the Gold Medal for Biography given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has received fifty-four honorary degrees.

In 2013, in his honor, the city of Pittsburgh, his hometown, renamed its landmark 16th Street Bridge over the Allegheny River the David McCullough Bridge. More recently, in September 2014, he was named an Officer of the Legion of Honor by decree of the President of the Republic of France.

In a crowded, productive career, he has been an editor, teacher, lecturer, and familiar presence on public television—as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience, and narrator of numerous documentaries including Ken Burns’s The Civil War. His is also the narrator’s voice in the movie Seabiscuit. John Adams, the seven-part mini-series on HBO produced by Tom Hanks, was one of the most acclaimed television events of recent years.

A gifted speaker, Mr. McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House. He is also one of the few private citizens to speak before a joint session of Congress.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, he was educated there and at Yale. He is an avid reader, traveler, and has enjoyed a lifelong interest in art and architecture. He is as well a devoted painter. He and his wife Rosalee Barnes McCullough have five children and nineteen grandchildren.