On Tuesday, April 18, the poet Victoria Chang was presented with the 2023 Chowdhury Prize in Literature, an annual international mid-career award for exceptional writers, by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Kenyon College, and the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation.
Chang is the author of six collections of poetry, including the award-winning OBIT (2020) and The Trees Witness Everything (2022), two books for young readers: Is Mommy? (2015) and Love Love (2020), and the nonfiction work Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief (2021). The $20,000 prize is awarded annually to authors who are at an inflection point, with a body of work behind them, but also with significant future potential. It is intended to encourage and help writers forge into new territories. There is no application process for the Chowdhury Prize in Literature, which is the only one of its kind to be awarded on the west coast of the United States. It will be presented to Chang on April 18, 2023 at a gala ceremony on the USC campus.
“The Chowdhury Prize at USC Dornsife is an exciting new way for our academic community to engage with fresh insights and diverse perspectives that reach beyond the academy walls. This prize is an outstanding example of our community’s commitment not only to outstanding scholarship, but also to developing a two-way dialogue between scholars and the public that contributes in meaningful ways to today’s greater social discourse,” Amber D. Miller, dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, observed during the inauguration of the prize last year.
The esteemed panel of judges note that Chang is a deft stylist who isn’t afraid to work across genres or to adapt forms as diverse as the obituary or the letter in service of her aesthetic ends. The result is a body of work that continually surprises, allowing us to see both Chang and ourselves anew. “Victoria Chang’s poetry and prose engage in powerful and deeply intimate conversations with grieving, always interrogating and testing the limits of memory,” said David St. John, University Professor of English and Comparative Literature and chair of the English Department at USC Dornsife. “She is one of our most public champions of the crucial importance of poetry in the life of contemporary culture.” Chang’s other poetry collections are: Circle (2005), Salvinia Molesta (2008), The Boss (2014), and Barbie Chang (2017).
“We’re delighted that Victoria Chang has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Chowdhury Prize,” Subir and Malini Chowdhury said in a joint statement on behalf of the Chowdhury Foundation. “She is an outstanding poet and an adventurous writer, as well as an exemplary literary citizen. Her career epitomizes the commitment and engagement the prize aspires to honor. We look forward to reading much more work from her.”
Added Chowdhury Prize administrator David L. Ulin, professor of English at USC Dornsife: “The hallmark of Victoria Chang’s writing is the willingness to confront difficult realities, including the specter of loss, familial and otherwise. Nuanced, insightful, and unrelenting, her work walks the line between personal experience and the core humanity we all share.” “We’ve have been so fortunate to partner with the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Foundation to establish the Chowdhury Distinguished Speaker Series and with Kenyon College and Kenyon Review, the $20,000 Chowdhury Prize in Literature,” said St. John. “Now in its second year, it’s already recognized as one of the most distinguished international prizes in the world.”
Malini Chowdhury, Victoria Chang, and Subir Chowdhury (Photo Credit: Iliana Garcia, 2023)
David St. John and Victoria Chang (Photo Credit: Iliana Garcia, 2023)
David St. John speaks at the 2023 Chowdhury Prize reception (Photo Credit: Iliana Garcia, 2023)
David L. Ulin and Victoria Chang (Photo Credit: Iliana Garcia, 2023)
Dana Johnson (Photo Credit: Iliana Garcia, 2023)
Anandi Chowdhury, Malini Chowdhury, Victoria Chang, Subir Chowdhury, and Anish Chowdhury
(Photo Credit: Iliana Garcia, 2023)
A crowd at the reception prior to the award ceremony (Photo Credit: Iliana Garcia, 2023)
Subir Chowdhury and Viet Thanh Nguyen (Photo Credit: Iliana Garcia, 2023)
Victoria Chang and Viet Thanh Nguyen at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (Photo Credit: David L. Ulin, 2023)
Victoria Chang and David L. Ulin (Photo Credit: Iliana Garcia, 2023)