Winner Of The Wolfe Memorial Literary Award Announced

This year the winner of the Award is Charles Frazier for his novel, Varina.

Charles Frazier and his book, Varina.

The Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA) today announced the selection of the 63rd winner of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award.  This year the winner of the Award is Charles Frazier for his novel, Varina.

In making the award the Selection Panel praised Varina as follows: “We believe this is a novel that meets the high standards of the Wolfe Award. Set during the period of The Civil War and the decades that follow, Varina engages complex and difficult issues as it follows Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, through her long and active life. It confronts issues of class, race, gender, and political conflict that still haunt American society today.”

A prize of $1,500 accompanies the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award and will be presented to the author at the annual Award event. The Award event, followed by a reception, is scheduled for Saturday, November 17, 2018 from 4-6 PM at the Renaissance Hotel (31 Woodfin St, Asheville), directly across the street from The Old Kentucky Home. The award reception is generously being sponsored by the Renaissance Hotel. Event tickets are $20 general admission and $10 for WNCHA members. Tickets may be reserved by contacting WNCHA at 828-253-9231 or emailing WNCHA, Executive Director, Tim Tipton at

In addition to Mr. Frazier, the other five finalists for the award have also been invited to attend the event and read a brief excerpt from their work. The other finalists chosen from the original group of nominations are as follows:

Phillip Lewis The Barrowfields

Alexandra Duncan Blight

Denise Kiernon The Last Castle

Heather Bell Adams Maranatha Road

Andrew Denson Monuments to Absence

Originated by the Louis Lipinsky family and now supported by Michael Sartisky, PhD and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Board, the Award has been presented annually since 1955 for printed works that focus special attention on Western North Carolina.

To be considered, an entry had to be a published work of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or poetry.  It had to be a first edition work. The publication date of the published work to be considered had to be between January 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018 and the author had to be a native of the Western North Carolina region or a resident of WNC for at least twelve months prior to the closing date for the Award. If the author does not qualify as a native or resident, the focus or setting of the work must be Western North Carolina. Western North Carolina includes the Qualla Boundary and the westernmost 25 counties.

WNCHA and the Lipinsky family of Asheville presented the first Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award to Wilma Dykeman in 1955 for The French Broad.  The 2017 winner was Julia Frank for her debut novel, Over the Plain Houses  Other authors who have received the award include Terry Roberts, Robert Morgan, John Parris, Gail Godwin, John Ehle, Charles Frazier, Robert Brunk, Michael McFee, Lee Smith, Ron Rash, Wiley Cash, and Wayne Caldwell.

The Award Panel this year consists of prior TWMLA Winner, Terry Roberts, PhD, Chair, Director of the National Paideia Center; Gordon McKinney, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Berea College & board member, WNCHA; Jim Stokely, former board member, Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Committee; Gwin Jones, Past Chair WNCHA; Tom Muir, Director, Thomas Wolfe Memorial; Ellen Carr, board member, Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Committee; and Mimi Fenton, PhD, Immediate Past Dean of the Graduate School, Western Carolina University and Brandon J. Johnson, Mars Hill University.

The Western North Carolina Historical Association is a nonprofit corporation whose mission is the preservation and promotion of the history of Western North Carolina through the care, interpretation, and presentation of the Smith-McDowell House, the education of the public through lectures, exhibitions, publications, and related events; and the facilitation of cooperation among regional historical organizations.  For more information, please call Tim Tipton, WNCHA Executive Director at 828.253.9231 or email


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