Tracy K. Smith won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Life on Mars. Her critically acclaimed memoir Ordinary Light was shortlisted for the 2015 National Book Award in Nonfiction. The youngest of five children, she was raised with limitless affection and a firm belief in God by a stay-at-home mother and an engineer father. But after spending a summer in Alabama at her grandmother’s house, Smith returned to California with a new sense of what it means to be black. Booklist calls Ordinary Light “a gracefully nuanced yet strikingly candid memoir about family, faith, race, and literature,” and BBC’s Between the Lines says, “It is a lament, an homage, a discovery, a blessing.” Smith is currently the Director of Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program.
Kevin Young is widely regarded as one of the leading poets of his generation, one who finds inspiration in African American music, particularly the blues, and in the bittersweet history of Black America. Billy Collins praised him as “tender, sassy, and just plain cool.” The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize and the PEN Open Book Award. Young’s latest compendium, Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995–2015, draws from all nine of his previous collections and includes new poems as well.