It is our great pleasure to announce that Marsha Lynn Smith is the 2020 winner of The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction. Her essay, 4 Generations of Black Hair Matters, was an early favorite in the submission process, and was named the best of the best by contest judge Carter Sickels. Sickels writes:
“I was impressed by all of the wonderful essays I read for The Barnhill Prize, and I want thank the writers for sharing their work.
4 Generations of Black Hair Matters explores the changing hairstyles of four generations of Black women, and beautifully exemplifies what the personal essay can do. It’s both intimate and insightful. By writing about her own life with nuance, intimacy, and specificity, Smith illuminates truths about American culture and history, and about race, gender, and class.
From the first scene, as the narrator considers “detangling” her granddaughter’s “springy hair coils,” I knew I was in confident, skilled hands. Whether mining her memories of her mother working over her hair with a hot comb or getting her first natural at a barber shop in Chicago, or keenly examining why generations of Black women embraced or rejected particular hairstyles, the narrator of this essay is smart, supple, and funny. I was absolutely drawn in by the narrator’s voice, and by the precise, nimble prose. 4 Generations of Black Hair Matters is a personal, perceptive essay that explores Black women’s hairstyles as powerful expressions of identity, beauty, and culture.”
Congratulations to Marsha, and to each of our finalists. On behalf of our editorial team, we are humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to read your work; most of all, you contributed to the dream of honoring Anne Barnhill by offering poignant and powerful narratives from your childhood experience.
Marsha Lynn Smith is completing a memoir highlighting a rocky romance with a jazz musician, juggling single motherhood and her surprise career as a Hollywood publicist. Her work has or will be published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, River Teeth, and Rigorous. Also, her essays will appear in the print journals of Genre: Urban Arts’ Femme Literati Mixtape No. 2, and Madville Publishing’s 2021 essay anthology, Being Home. She likes to read historical fiction novels, and admits to binge-watching international TV dramas. Follow her on Twitter: @real_marsha
Desi Allevato lives in central Virginia with her husband, where they are raising one child, two cats, and a hundred tree saplings in a suburban backyard. She has a brain tumor, ADHD, and an unfinished dissertation about Russian history, and assumed her life was pretty ordinary until a friend told her should write about it. She is a contributing writer to Grow Christians. Follow her on Twitter, @desirosie.
Elana Margot is a writer of poetry, autofiction, and creative nonfiction based in the Bay Area. Her writing has been published in The Goose: A Journal of Arts, Environment, and Culture in Canada, and Undercurrents: A Journal of Critical Environmental Studies. Her work centers the practice of writing into grief, embodiment, childhood subjectivity, queerness, and animality. Follow her on Twitter: @ElanaMargot
Vanessa Remmers is a former journalist who is now working to tell her own stories. You can find more of her work on Twitter @RemmersVanessa or at vanessaremmers.journoportfolio.com
Cheryl Skory Suma launched her writing career with a YA fantasy novel, Habitan, which made the longlist of the 2019 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards. She won Blank Spaces 2020 (March) Flash Fiction Contest, was longlisted for both Pulp Literature’s 2020 Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest & Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize, received an Honorable Mention for Spider Road Press 2020 Flash Fiction Contest, was a finalist for Exposition Review’s Flash 405 (April 2020), and her second novel, gods Playground, was a ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition semifinalist. Her poetry has appeared in La Piccioletta Barca and Public Poetry’s Enough Anthology. In 2019 she was also a semifinalist for Ruminate Magazine’s VanderMey Nonfiction Prize and shortlisted for Hippocampus Magazine’s Creative Nonfiction Contest, Blank Spaces Flash Fiction contest and the Erbacce Prize for poetry. Cheryl has a Masters of Health Science in Speech-Language Pathology and a B.Sc. in Honors Psychology. Her website is cherylskorysuma.com. Follow her on Twitter: @cherylskorysuma