2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses;
2016 American Book Award; 2016 Lannan Literary Award for Fiction; 2016 Finalist William Saroyan International Prize for Fiction
Counternarratives is an extraordinary work of literature. John Keene is a dense, intricate, and magnificent writer.
— Christine Smallwood, Harper’s
Of the scope of William T. Vollmann or Samuel R. Delany, but with a kaleidoscopic intuition all its own, Counternarrativesis very easily one of the most vividly imagined and vitally timed books of the year. I haven’t felt so refreshed in quite a while as a reader.
— Blake Butler, Vice
Keene exerts superb control over his stories, costuming them in the style of Jorge Luis Borges. Yet he preserves the undercurrent of excitement and pathos that accompanies his characters’ persecution and their groping toward freedom.
— Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
John Keene chairs the Department of African American and African Studies and is Professor of English and African American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark. He also teaches in the Rutgers-Newark MFA in Creative Writing Program. In May 2017, he was awarded the Rutgers Faculty Scholar-Teacher Award, given across all Rutgers' campuses since 2000, to "honor tenured professors who make exceptional connections between their academic research and their teaching."
He is the author of the novel Annotations (New Directions, 1995); the poetry collection Seismosis (1913 Press, 2006), a collaboration with artist Christopher Stackhouse; and the short fiction collection Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015), which received the inaugural 2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses (in the United Kingdom), as well as a 2016 American Book Award, and a 2016 Lannan Literary Award for fiction. Counternarratives was one of two finalists for the 2016 William Saroyan International Prize for Fiction Writing. Keene's other published work includes GRIND (ITI Press, 2016), an art-text collaboration with photographer Nicholas Muellner, and the poetry chapbook Playland (Seven Kitchens Press, 2016).
He has published his fiction, poetry, essays, and translations in a wide array of journals, and his honors include a 2003 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, a 2005 Whiting Foundation Award in Fiction and Poetry, and a 2008 Fellowship for Distinguished First Poetry Collection from the inaugural Pan-African Literary Forum. Keene's introduction to the first English translation of Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst's novel The Obscene Madame D appeared in Fall 2012 (Nightboat Books/A Bolha Editora), and his translation from the Portuguese of Hilst's novel Letters from a Seducer (Nightboat Books/A Bolha Editora) was published in February 2014 and was named to the Best Translated Book longlist in 2015. His essay "Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness" was featured on the Poetry Foundation's website in the spring of 2016, and his essay "Translating Brazil's Marquise de Sade," on Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst, will appear in a forthcoming volume of essays on Hilst, edited by Adam Morris, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan. A fuller biography can be found here.