Department of Literatures in English announces 2021 Freund Prize recipients

Thu, 09/30/2021

The Department of Literatures in English announces the 2021 winners of the Philip Freund Prize for Creative Writing in recognition of excellence in publication: Julie Phillips Brown (MFA '08, PhD '11), Lena Nguyen (MFA '16), Michael Prior (MFA '17), and Renia White (MFA '16). The alumni prize is supported by the Philip Freund '29 endowment and comes with a $5,000 stipend and an invitation to read as part of the Freund Prize Reading in the Fall semester. More about the 2021 Freund Prize recipients:

Julie Phillips Brown, Poet

"Cornell is my writerly home: the place where Ken McClane once tugged his ear with pleasure over one of my poems, where Alice Fulton first called me a poet (and I dared to believe it), and where I wrote the early drafts of my first book, The Adjacent Possible. I am honored to be called home again, and I am deeply grateful to my mentors, my department, and to the Philip H. Freund ‘29 endowment for this extraordinary recognition."

Julie Phillips Brown is an interdisciplinary poet, artist, critic, and editor. She is the author of The Adjacent Possible, winner of the Hopper Poetry Prize, and the founding editor of House Mountain Review. She has held research fellowships in contemporary poetry and poetics from the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University and the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University. Recent work appears in Revolute, The RumpusTwyckenham NotesVassar Review, and elsewhere.

Lena Nguyen, Novelist

"It's an incredible honor to be awarded the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing. I'm so proud to be joining the ranks of the very illustrious Cornell alumni and authors who have been granted this award, and it's doubly an honor because this novel first began as my MFA thesis right here in the Cornell English department. Thank you so much for this generous distinction."

The daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Lena Nguyen taught courses in English, writing, vampires, and zombies at Cornell, and has studied writing all over the country, including at Harvard, Stanford, and Brown University. Her science fiction and fantasy have won several accolades, and WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE, her debut novel, was a Booklist starred review and an Amazon Editors' Pick for Best Science Fiction. Lena also works as a game developer and is currently writing her second novel.

Michael Prior, Poet

"I'm honored to have received the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing. Burning Province wouldn't exist without the support and guidance of the Cornell MFA program's wonderful faculty (especially my advisors, Alice Fulton and Ishion Hutchinson) and my brilliant cohort, so it means a lot to me to have been invited back to read for the Prize."

Michael Prior is the author of Burning Province (2020), which won the Canada-Japan Literary Award and the BC and Yukon Book Prizes' Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in places like The New RepublicPoetry, and the Academy of American Poets's Poem-a-Day Series. The recent recipient of fellowships from the New York Public Library's Cullman Center and the Jerome Foundation, Prior is an Assistant Professor of English at Macalester College.

Renia White, Writer

"I’m truly grateful to be a recipient of this year’s Freund Prize. It means so much for my efforts to be recognized in this way."

Renia White is the author of Casual Conversation, a Blessing the Boats Selection forthcoming in Spring 2022. Originally from Maryland, she came of age in Riverdale, GA before earning her BA and MFA from Howard and Cornell University, respectively. She received the 2015 Hurston/Wright Foundation College Writers Award in poetry. Her work appears in publications such as The Offing, Slice, Witness, Southern Indiana Review, and elsewhere. She lives in NYC.

Winners will participate in the 2021 Freund Prize Reading, which will take place on November 11, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. in Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, G70 Klarman Hall. The event is open only to attendees who are current Cornell students or employees, and they must show their Cornell ID for admission to the event. Cornell employees attending indoor events must complete the Daily Check prior to attendance.

Philip Freund ’29, MA ’32, was a novelist, short-story writer, poet, documentary film writer, playwright, television dramatist, essayist, and literary critic. The Philip Freund Prize for Creative Writing honors graduates upon their successful publication. 

Julie Phillips Brown photo by Wendy Lynch Redfern, Lena Nguyen photo by Milla Nguyen, Michael Prior photo by Rocio Anica, Renia White photo by Nicholas Nichols

combined headshots of the four 2021 Freund Prize recipients