Center for Southern Studies to award 2023 Thomas Robinson Prize to Percival Everett

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Percival Everett looks over his left shoulder
Percival Everett. Photo courtesy Blue Flower Arts

Mercer University’s Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies will award the 2023 Thomas Robinson Prize for Southern Literature to renowned novelist and storyteller Percival Everett.

The prize will be presented at 1 p.m. March 25 in the Presidents Dining Room inside the University Center on the Macon campus. Everett will read from his work and will be available to sign copies of his books. The event is free and open to the public. 

Everett has written more than 30 novels, plus short stories and poetry collections. His writing often seamlessly addresses important modern issues while also incorporating original thought and an amusing disposition. 

“As a writer, Percival Everett is highly prolific and highly provocative. His works frequently challenge conventions in ways that are disruptive and innovative, and he evades categorization by writing in several forms and in ways that defy genre,” said Dr. David Davis, associate director of the King Center. “A native of the South, he also challenges the idea of a Southern writer by leading readers to reconsider the significance of regionalism in a globalized culture.” 

Everett wrote his first novel — Suder, published in 1983 — while completing his Master of Arts at Brown University. His most recent works are The Trees, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2022, and Dr. No, which satirizes spy thrillers. 

Everett has been awarded the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction, the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle, and the 2010 Believer Book Award, among other recognitions. His novel Telephone was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2021. 

Everett graduated from the University of Miami and attended the University of Oregon before transferring to the master’s program in fiction at Brown. He is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California, and he lives in Los Angeles.  

The Thomas Robinson Prize for Southern Literature was first awarded in 2012. The prize recognizes writers who have engaged and extended the long, often complicated, tradition of writing about the South. Past winners include Ernest Gaines (2012), Lee Smith (2013), Elizabeth Spencer (2014), Yusef Komunyakaa (2015), Wendell Berry (2016), Ellen Gilchrist (2017), Natasha Trethewey (2018), Fred Chappell (2019), Ron Rash (2020), Barbara Kingsolver (2021) and Nikky Finney (2022). 

The selection committee for the Robinson Prize includes Mercer professors, eminent scholars of Southern literature and members of the Macon community. In addition to Dr. Davis, the committee includes Bob Brinkmeyer, Emily Brown Jefferies Professor of English Emeritus at the University of South Carolina; Sharon Colley, professor of English at Middle Georgia State University; Sarah Gardner, Distinguished University Professor of History at Mercer; Trudier Harris, Distinguished Research Professor of English at the University of Alabama; Barbara Ladd, professor of English at Emory University; John Wharton Lowe, Barbara Methvin Professor of English at the University of Georgia; Judson Mitcham, former Georgia Poet Laureate; Chelsea Rathburn, Georgia Poet Laureate and assistant professor of creative writing at Mercer; and Pam Thomasson, past president of Historic Macon Foundation. 

Dr. Joe Sam Robinson Jr. and his wife Betsy Robinson, of Macon, created the Thomas McRae Hamilton Robinson Endowment within the Center for Southern Studies that supports a public reading by the prize winner at the annual presentation ceremony. The endowment honors the memory of their son, Thomas Robinson, and significantly enhances literary programming in Middle Georgia by underwriting the event. 

Mercer will also award Spencer B. King Jr. Creative Writing Scholarships on March 25. High school juniors with high aptitude for writing may compete for the scholarships, and winners will receive up to $2,000 per year toward the cost of tuition at Mercer. To be eligible, students must complete an application and submit either a work of short fiction of no more than 700 words or two poems totaling no more than 700 words. For more information, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@mercer.edu

About Mercer University 

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. With approximately 9,000 students enrolled in 12 schools and colleges, on major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; medical school sites in Macon, Savannah and Columbus; and at regional academic centers in Henry and Douglas counties, Mercer is ranked among the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report. The Mercer Health Sciences Center includes the University’s School of Medicine and Colleges of Nursing, Health Professions and Pharmacy. Mercer is affiliated with five teaching hospitals – Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare in Columbus. The University also has an educational partnership with Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon, an engineering research center in Warner Robins, and Mercer Medicine clinics in Sumter, Peach, Clay and Putnam counties. Mercer is one of only 293 institutions nationwide to shelter a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society; one of eight institutions to hold membership in the Georgia Research Alliance; and the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit mercer.edu