“Nathan Harris has written a profound novel,” said Stephen Monroe, chair of the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric. “We hope the Willie Morris Award leads more people to read his beautiful debut, and we look forward to welcoming Nathan to the Oxford Conference for the Book this spring.
“Our winners will join an incredible group of talented writers at this year’s conference.”
A national panel of judges reviewed nominated novels looking for works that ask readers to engage with the complexities of the American South. They narrowed the fiction entries to a shortlist of three: Harris’s “The Sweetness of Water,” “Hell of a Book” by Jason Mott and “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennet.
As the fiction winner, Harris receives $10,000. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Michener Center at the University of Texas. Harris was a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree in 2021.
The Seattle resident received national attention when Oprah Winfrey selected his debut novel for her book club, propelling it to New York Times bestselling status.
“I’m so humbled to be the recipient of the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction,” Harris said. “Allow me to express my deepest gratitude for the judges, the University of Mississippi and the spirit and legacy of Mr. Morris himself. This is an honor I will be reflecting on for some time.”
Jonathan Haupt, one of the fiction judges for the Willie Morris Award and executive director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center, praised Harris’ work.
“Harrowing and yet also hopeful, ‘The Sweetness of Water’ deftly captures the South in the days just after the American Civil War with vantage points on race, class, gender and sexuality that resonate in the historical moments we are still navigating today,” Haupt said.
“That this masterful epic from Nathan Harris is a debut novel is nothing short of astounding – and brings with it the welcome possibility of many mo