The 2024 Gulf Coast Prizes

Fiction Winner:
 "Before You Dance" by Michelle Ajodah

Honorable Mentions: 
"The Missing" by Megan Baxter
"Couple’s Therapy" by Dylan Fisher

Zaina Arafat, on the winner:
"There's an immediate tension introduced in the first line that simmers throughout this story, one that exists between American and Guyenese culture and expectations, between the immigrant and first-generation, between the narrator's love for their family and their desire to leave home. The piece allows us access into so many worlds-- the narrator's world of dance, their family life, their inner life and rebellion, all with such rich observations and visceral details. On a line level, the rhythm of the sentences is perfect, the last sentence, a text from the narrator's mother, left me absolutely gutted."

Michelle Ajodah is a writer and creative professional based in Somerville, MA.  Originally from Larchmont, NY, she moved to New England  to earn a BFA in Writing, Literature & Publishing from Emerson College and an MLA in Creative Writing & Literature from the Harvard Extension School.She is an alumna of GrubStreet’s Novel Generator program. A 2024 Writer-in-Residence at Porter Square Books, she is working on a novel. Her writing centers on ritual and myth in Guyanese families like her own.

Poetry Winner: 
“Talking Drums” by Hussain Ahmed

Honorable Mentions:
Naïve” by Loisa Fenichell
"Hand Down” by Christian Paulisich

Monica Youn, on the winner: 
"'Talking Drums' weaves a gorgeously sophisticated polyrhythm out of the textures of dailiness and of deeper histories. Slabs and snippets, riffs and depth charges – each element sounds its separate inimitable song, retaining its distinctiveness even as the juxtapositions and quick changes, the silences and sequences create new and glorious combinations." 

Hussain Ahmed is a Nigerian poet, the author of Soliloquy with the Ghosts in Nile (Black Ocean Press), and Blue Exodus (Orison Book), winner of the Orison poetry prize. He holds an MFA from the University of Mississippi and currently a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati. His poems have been featured in Kenyon Review, POETRY, A Public Space, American Poetry Review and elsewhere.

Non-Fiction Winner:
“Qualifying Exams” by Elda María Román

Honorable Mentions:
“Boy Friends” by Kurt David and Isaiah Yonah Back-Gaal
“In Search of Higher Ground” by Danielle Batalion Ola

Edgar Gomez, on the winner:
"'Qualifying Exams' is a powerful and poignant exploration of the complexities faced by a Latina PHD student torn between choosing her body and her mind as she pursues higher education. Effortlessly navigating through intersections of body image, race, and class, Elda Maria Roman deftly captures the experience of trying to break free from the barriers that hold us back, ultimately providing us with a guide map to our own freedom."

Elda María Román (first name is Elda María) is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Southern California, where she studies race, class, literature, and media. Her academic book, Race and Upward Mobility (Stanford UP), analyzes class dynamics in African American and Mexican American literature, television, and film from the 1940s-2000s. Her creative nonfiction has been published in Air/Light, The Rumpus, and Huizache. She is currently working on a collection of essays combining personal stories with cultural criticism.