Winners of the 2022 Freund Prize for Creative Writing read on November 17

 The Department of Literatures in English celebrates the winners of the 2022 Philip Freund Prize for Creative Writing in recognition of excellence in publication: Ryka Aoki, Estella Gonzalez, Shane Kowalski, and Manuel Muñoz.

The alumni prize is supported by the Philip Freund '29 endowment and comes with a $5000 award and an invitation to participate in the Freund Prize Reading in the fall semester.

The 2022 Freund Prize Reading will take place on Thursday, November 17 at 5:00 p.m. in the Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, 132 Goldwin Smith Hall. Recipients will read from their award-winning work. Books by the authors will be available for purchase thanks to Ithaca's local cooperative book store, Buffalo Street Books, and a book signing will follow the reading.

More about the 2022 Freund Prize recipients:


Ryka Aoki outside

Ryka Aoki (MFA ’92), writer & author

RYKA AOKI’s first novel, He Mele a Hilo, was published by Topside Press in 2014. She is a two-time Lambda Literary Award finalist for her collections Seasonal Velocities, andWhy Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul. Ryka’s work has appeared or been recognized in publications including Vogue, Elle, Bustle, Autostraddle, PopSugar, and Buzzfeed, as well as the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Her most recent novel, Light From Uncommon Stars, was a national bestseller, and was recognized as one of the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2021 by Barnes & Nobles, Kirkus, Goodreads, Bookpage and the New York Public Library. Ryka has been honored by the California State Senate for “extraordinary commitment to the visibility and well-being of Transgender people.” She has an MFA in creative writing from Cornell University, and is cur­rently a professor of English at Santa Monica College. You can find Ryka online at


Estella Gonzalez with a decorative skull

Estella Gonzalez (MFA ’09), writer

ESTELLA GONZALEZ is from East Los Angeles, her literary inspiration. Her work has appeared in anthologies such as Latinos in Lotus Land: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature and literary journals including Kweli Journal, The Acentos Review, Asteri(ix), and Huizache. Her writing has been recognized with a Pushcart Prize “Special Mention” and as a “Reading Notable” for The Best American Non-Required Reading. Her first book, Chola Salvation, was a finalist for the Louise Meriwether Book Prize for a collection of short fiction and a finalist for the James D. Houston Award for Western Literature.


Shane Kowalski wearing backwards cap

Shane Kowalski (MFA ’17), writer

SHANE KOWALSKI lives in Pennsylvania. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at Ursinus College. Before this, he worked for the United States Postal Service. He is the author of the very short story collection, Small Moods.



Manuel Muñoz head resting in hand

Manuel Muñoz (MFA ’98), writer

MANUEL MUÑOZ’s new collection of short stories, The Consequences, will be published by Graywolf Press in October 2022. He is the author of two previous collections of short stories, Zigzagger and The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue, which was shortlisted for the 2007 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and a novel, What You See in the Dark. Muñoz is the recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award. Three of his short stories have received O. Henry Awards and one was chosen for Best American Short Stories. A native of Dinuba, California, Muñoz has been on the faculty of the University of Arizona’s creative writing program since 2008.


Ryka Aoki photo by Ryka Aoki, Estella Gonzalez photo by Kathleen Dreier, Shane Kowalski photo by Shane Kowalski, Manuel Muñoz photo by Manuel Muñoz

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All four Freund Prize winners