Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ph.D. Alumna Named 2011 Whiting Writers' Award Recipient

Don Mee Choi, Ph.D.
CINCINNATI, OH – The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation has named Union Institute & University Ph.D. alumna Don Mee Choi as one of ten recipients of the 2011 Whiting Writers’ Award. The awards, now $50,000 each totaling $500,000, have been given annually since 1985 to writers of "exceptional talent and promise in early career."

Since 1985, the program has awarded more than $6 million to 270 poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and playwrights. Among the past recipients who have gone on to achieve acclaim and prominence in their field are Jeffrey Eugenides, Yiyun Li, Tony Kushner, Jonathan Franzen, Lisa Shea, Michael Cunningham, Mary Karr, Allegra Goodman, Wayne Koestenbaum, Rajiv Joseph and Terrance Hayes.

“The selection committee has given us a marvelously eclectic group of writers,” said Barbara Bristol, director of the Writers’ Program. “It is wonderful to see from the books these writers have published that the small, independent presses and university presses continue to be a strong, vital presence in the literary world, and it is also heartening that the larger presses are still investing in emerging literary talent.”

The 2011 recipients were announced at a ceremony at the Times Center in New York City on Tuesday, October 25. Poet Mark Doty, author of eight books of poems, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008, gave the keynote address. Whiting Foundation President Robert Belknap presented the awards to the recipients.

Choi was awarded for her first book of poetry, The Morning News is Exciting (Action Books, 2010), which the selectors found “a wildly surprising work describing the collapse of empire—bracing and invigorating. Its anger glows.” She also translates contemporary Korean women poets; her most recent is All the Garbage of the World, Unite! by Kim Hyesoon (Action Books, 2011). She is a recipient of a Daesan Translation Grant, Korea Literature Translation Institute Translation Grant, an American Literary Translators Association Travel Fellowship, and has served as poet-in-residence at the Henry Art Gallery. In addition to her Ph.D. from Union, which she earned in 2003, she holds a BFA and an MFA from the California Institute for the Arts. An instructor in adult basic education at Renton Technical College, she lives in Seattle.

Whiting Writers’ Awards candidates are proposed by about a hundred anonymous nominators from across the country whose experience and vocations give them knowledge about writers in early career. Winners are chosen by a small anonymous selection committee of recognized writers and editors, appointed annually by the Foundation. At four meetings over the course of the year, the selectors discuss the candidates’ work and recommend up to ten writers for awards to the Foundation’s Trustees. The Foundation accepts nominations only from the designated nominators.

About the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation

The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation was established in 1963 by Flora E. Whiting. In 1972, her unrestricted bequest of over $10 million enabled the Foundation to establish the Whiting Fellowships in the Humanities for doctoral candidates in their dissertation year. In the years since, the Foundation has annually awarded grants to Bryn Mawr, University of Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale to fund these Fellowships, the recipients of which are selected by each institution. The Foundation created the Whiting Writers’ Awards in 1985 under the direction of Gerald Freund, who organized and led the program until his death in 1997.

For more information about the Whiting Writers’ Award contact Liza Lucas,
(212) 705-4226 or For information about Union’s Ph.D. program and Don Mee Choi, Ph.D., contact Nicole Hamilton, (513) 487-1194 or


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