The 2022 Gulf Coast Prizes

Fiction Winner:
“Roy” by Emma Binder

Honorable Mentions: 
“The Inherent Danger of Repetition” by an chang joon
“The Proposal” by Shabnam Nadiya

Micah Dean Hicks, on the winner:
Fast-moving and heavy as a train. Built neat as a house, every brick and shingle in its place. Each sentence full of gunpowder. Cruelty sugared with glee. And oh, such heart, longing wide and sharp enough to cleave you right in half.

Emma Binder is a fiction writer and poet from Wisconsin. They received their MFA in Fiction from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and were the 2020–2021 Hoffman-Halls Emerging Artist Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. Their work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Pleiades, Narrative, The Texas Review, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. They currently live in Western Massachusetts, where they’re working on a collection of short stories.

Poetry Winner: 
“Dear Unborn Moon Bug” by Samyak Shertok

Honorable Mentions: 
"In the Six Killings of Nazis by Macario Garcia, There Is a Lineage" by Reyes Ramirez
"Plot Holes" by Rebecca Martin 

Jennifer Chang, on the winner: 
“Dear Unborn Moonbug” is a breathtaking feat of profound feeling and expert craft.  The poem exemplifies how language can make the past and the future ecstatically alive. Wielding the ghazal form with effervescent energy, the poet gives a language lesson that is also a story of migration, loss, and reinvention. It is through language that the poet makes whole what history has halved, connecting us to a parent’s tenderness towards an unborn child, to ancestors and all the other ghosts that make the entire endeavor of poem-making/language-learning/life-building so very meaningful.

Samyak Shertok’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Blackbird, The Cincinnati Review, Gettysburg Review, The Iowa Review, New England Review, Shenandoah, Waxwing, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. His work has been awarded the Robert and Adele Schiff Award, the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award, and an AWP Intro Journals Award. Originally from Nepal, he is a PhD candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Utah, where he is a Steffensen Cannon Fellow. A finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Jake Adam York Prize, he has received fellowships from Aspen Words, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. 

Non-Fiction Winner:
"Revolutionary Acts" by May-lee Chai

Honorable Mentions:
"The Thief of Always" by Alexander Lumans
"Visiting Mama" by N.R. Robinson

José Vadi, on the winner:
How do we use writing to critique the structures that shape and impact our lives while honoring the victims of those structures — their stories, dreams, families? This is one of many questions I had after reading "Revolutionary Acts". As the author attempts to write about persecuted early 20th century Chinese writer Ding Ling, this piece explores the author’s own lifetime of received anti-Asian hate crimes. Tense scenes with a bare, deft prose allow the impact of these truly haunting incidents to resonate across the page into a fever pitch. At its conclusion, the author visualizes how a single decision can feel like an attempt to correct generations of injustice — of how revolution is both intergenerational and accessible — a product of everyday moments and experiences that define who we are, what we stand for, what we fight for. I am thankful the protagonist of this essay reminded me of this, and many more thoughts, upon reading this challenging, well-written, and inventive winner of the 2022 Gulf Coast Journal Prize for Nonfiction. 

May-lee Chai is the author of eleven books, including her 2022 collection, Tomorrow in Shanghai & Other Stories. Her previous story collection, Useful Phrases for Immigrants, won the 2019 American Book Award. She teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at San Francisco State University. Her writing has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman (selected by Tayari Jones), Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, named a Kiriyama Prize Notable Book, and recipient of an honorable mention for the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Book Awards. Her short prose has appeared widely, including in Seventeen, New England Review, Longreads, Paris Review Online, Los Angeles Times, Best Small Fictionsand cited as Notable in two editions of the Best American Essays anthology.