Christopher Hewitt Award Winners 2014
When we announced our winners last year for the first annual Christopher Hewitt Award, we wrote that the award was our way of recognizing and encouraging work that “not only builds upon the legacy of thirty years of literature about our community, but also helps to enrich and expand our ideas of what ‘literature’ and ‘community’ mean when we speak about AIDS in the new millennium.”
All that, and the work needed to be really, really good. It seemed a bit lofty to expect all of those qualities to emerge from a contest, let alone from any single contribution, but the entries this year reminded us that good writing really can—and should—open up new possibilities for a genre. It was clear to our judges that what makes great contemporary writing about HIV/AIDS stand out from the crowd is just that: It’s contemporary. It feels fresh and vital, willfully undermining our old stories about illness and reflecting instead a complex global reality, in which diagnosis doesn’t have to equal tragedy and finding a cure turns out not to be a simple victory.
Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko, winner in the Creative Nonfiction category, takes an eviscerating look at current personal and political strife for gay and transgender Africans with HIV and moves towards introspection, asking, “In a world committed to making queer Africans crazy, when I finally look beyond my world, beyond circumstance in search of identity, have I done everything in my power to meet this moment?”
Stephen Mead’s poem “Building Immunities” uses gorgeous, fickle syntax and distilled meaning (“…I dreamed, / river-willed, stirring stillness: / you again, you—”) to imagine a reunion between partners in a world not in which AIDS never existed, but in which lovers have suffered and are stronger for it: “recharged despite the carnage of life.”
Halfway through Stephen S. Mills’s short story “After the Cure,” a scene shift happens that takes the narrator from detailing his near-obsessive making of red ribbons in the nineties to an imagined world in the near future in which there really is a “cure.” In strict literary terms, this qualifies “After the Cure” as science fiction, which Robert A. Heinlein once described as “realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present.” In this case, Mills’s knowledge includes the wisdom to recognize that after years of activism and long-term survival, gaining a cure will also mean losing a whole way of looking at ourselves and the world around us.
We think you’ll enjoy these three pieces as much as our judges did. They give us hope about the future of writing on HIV/AIDS. And we think they’re really, really good.
A&U Magazine congratulates the winners of the second annual Christopher Hewitt Awards in Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction. The quality of work submitted in all categories was outstanding. Entries for next year’s award will be accepted after January 1, 2015.
First-place winners will have their work published in A&U’s August 2014 Summer Reading issue. Work by runners-up and finalists will appear throughout the rest of the year.
WINNER: Stephen S. Mills, “After the Cure”
WINNER: Stephen Mead, “Building Immunities”
HONORABLE MENTION: Diane Seuss, “It’s like DNA”
WINNER: Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko, “Voicing That Inner Scream: Visibility and AIDS in LGBT Africa”
Brent Calderwood is author of The God of Longing (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014) and Literary Editor of A&U.