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Appalachian writer Nikki Giovanni to be honored October 8

ISSUED: 5 October 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Appalachian poet and writer Nikki Giovanni will receive the $5,000 Appalachian Heritage Writers Award from the West Virginia Humanities Council at Shepherd University on Thursday, October 8, at 8 p.m. in the Erma Ora Byrd Hall auditorium as part of the Shepherd University Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence program. Giovanni will also deliver the Scarborough Lecture, “Chasing Appalachia and Looking for Home,” and will present this year’s West Virginia Fiction Awards.

Winners of the West Virginia Fiction Competition, which is funded by the West Virginia Center for the Book, are: Karin Fuller, Hurricane, first place, for “Hobbledean”; Kathleen Furbee, Independence, second place, for “Rabbits”; and Faith Shearin, Gerrardstown, third place, for “What the Neighbors Think.”  Giovanni will also present the Judges Award to Alan Gibson, Marlinton, for “The Winter Survival Guide.”  Giovanni selected the winners of the Fiction Competition and wrote critiques of their stories.

Giovanni, who serves as University Distinguished Professor in the English department at Virginia Tech, is a prolific writer, teacher, and activist. She has written more than 30 books, including nonfiction, children’s literature, a memoir, and poetry.

Giovanni has received the NAACP Image Award, the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters, Outstanding Humanitarian Award, Governors’ Awards from Tennessee and Virginia, Woman of the Year from the magazines Ebony, Mademoiselle, Essence, and Ladies Home Journal, and a Grammy nomination for her reading of her poetry. She was also a finalist for a National Book Award.  Giovanni’s poetry deals with race, gender, class, art and aesthetics, home, family, and a range of issues and subjects.

Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1943 and grew up in Cincinnati. She always maintained a connection with the mountains of East Tennessee through her grandparents, living with them occasionally and in summers.  Giovanni graduated from Fisk University, returned to Cincinnati and established the city’s first Black Arts Festival, making a name for herself as one of the moving forces behind the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s.

Giovanni has lived and worked in New York, traveled all over the world, including several trips to Africa, cared for her parents when they grew older, battled lung cancer, and raised a son.  Since 1987, she has taught at Virginia Tech, in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, and she continues to create, publish, teach, and speak for the human rights of all.

Giovanni has served as writer-in-residence throughout 2015 and is visiting Shepherd University and the community during this week’s Appalachian Heritage Festival.  Her book, “Chasing Utopia,” has been chosen by the West Virginia Center for the Book as the 2015 One Book, One West Virginia common reading for the state, and her work will be the focus of the “Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Nikki Giovanni Volume VIII” to be published in early 2016. For information about these programs and the week’s events, visit and click on Nikki Giovanni.  The Appalachian Heritage Writer in Residence program is funded by the West Virginia Humanities Council and the Shepherd University Foundation.

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