Nafissa Thompson-Spires

India Downes-Le Guin

Nafissa Thompson-Spires is the author of Heads of the Colored People, which won the PEN Open Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Award for Fiction, and the Los Angeles Times’s Art Siedenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her collection was longlisted for the National Book Award, the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Award, and several other prizes, including an NAACP Image Award. She is also the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award.

She earned a doctorate in English from ­­­­Vanderbilt University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from ­­­­­­the University of Illinois. With dark humor and covering topics from identity to chronic illness, her short fiction and essays have appeared in The Paris Review DailyNew York Magazine’s “The Cut,” The RootThe White Review, Ploughshares,400 Souls: A Community History of African America 1619-2019, and The 1619 Project, among other publications. Her web series, Doing Stuff with Writers, premiered in 2020, and she made her television debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers in 2018. In addition to a novel under contract, she has new writing forthcoming in Fourteen Days: A Community Gathering, edited by Margaret Atwood.

She is currently the Richards Family Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Cornell University, teaching both in the MFA and undergrad programs.

Project Description: When Richard Aloysius Milford turns up dead, stinking, gangrenous, and missing a foot, shot, poisoned, floating in the small gorge that overlooks the Milford property, his four wives, and some of his forty children all become suspects, as does the entire town of Nahoo. Told in alternating focalizations from a first-person plural narrator a la Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” the novel plays with time and space and asks questions about epigenetic scarring, patrilineal trauma, broader meta concerning the nature of storytelling, and most importantly the bonds the four women in Rich’s life forge in the wake of the complicated choices they have to make.