Jamel Brinkley has been announced the winner of the 2018 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, for his debut collection of short stories A Lucky Man.
A Lucky Man is set in Brooklyn and South Bronx, places where Jamel Brinkley had his formative years. Stories in the collection explore “complex ties between boys and men who make mistakes.”
A Lucky Man is published by Graywolf Press and has earned a finalist spot at the National Book award for Fiction.
Jamel Brinkley confesses that he wrote many of the stories in the collection while in graduate school. His writing was an attempt and recreating the kind of people he knew while growing up in New York City. He only got the courage to quit his day job and take up writing full time in 2012. This was the same year he started attending writing workshops.
“That [move] was transformative for me. I met a lot of professional writers, who said I should take myself seriously as a writer. Their encouragement is what made me leave my job,” Brinkley said. “I’m happy I made the move.”
Brinkley said that he was shocked when he got news of him winning the Ernest J. Gaines Award. While he feels “very fortunate to have received any recognition bestowed on this book,” he is concerned that this kind of feat can make someone worry about replicating something like this again.
“I’ve just got to be careful to still trust myself and not let the attention or pressure affect me as a writer,” Brinkley said.
The Ernest J. Gaines Award, worth $10,000 is given to African-American writers of fiction who have produced outstanding work. It will be presented to Brinkley in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Los Angeles Review of Books is of the opinion that “his male characters have fictional experiences that, in the hands of the right reader, can become equipment for living.”