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'Everywhere You Don't Belong' by Gabriel Bump

Chicago native Gabriel Bump’s debut novel, “Everywhere You Don’t Belong,” has been named winner of the 2020 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.

The award will be presented to Bump at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 during a live online presentation, which is free and open to the public. A link and invitation will be available at

Now in its 14th year, the literary award carries a $15,000 prize given by Baton Rouge Area Foundation donors to recognize outstanding work from promising African-American fiction writers.

The award is named in honor of Gaines, a native of Pointe Coupee Parish, who made extraordinary contributions to the international literary world. Among his many honors, Gaines received a National Medal of Arts Award in 2013, a MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant and the National Humanities Medal. He was a member of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His critically acclaimed novel “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” was adapted into a made-for-TV movie that won nine Emmy awards. His 1993 novel “A Lesson Before Dying” won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

Gaines died in 2019 at his home in Oscar at the age of 86.

“Everywhere You Don’t Belong” is a dark and humorous coming-of-age story of Claude McKay Love, a young man living with his grandmother on the South Side of Chicago during the 1990s.

"Claude is relatable as an average kid in the contemporary world who deals with a cast of colorful characters and with issues of love, neighborhood violence and peer pressure, as he tries to figure out his life’s path and a place to safely belong," according to a news release from the foundation.

Bump’s fiction and essays have appeared in The Huffington Post, Slam, Springhouse Journal and other publications. Bump, who received an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, lives in Buffalo, New York.

The winner of the award is chosen by a national panel of judges: Anthony Grooms, a critically acclaimed author and creative writing professor at Kennesaw State University; Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2003 novel, “The Known World”; author Elizabeth Nunez, professor of English at Hunter College-City University of New York; Francine Prose, author of more than 20 books, including “Blue Angel,” a nominee for the 2000 National Book Award; and Patricia Towers, former features editor for O, The Oprah Magazine and a founding editor of Vanity Fair magazine.

In addition to honoring Bump’s novel, the judges also recognized and short-listed the political thriller “The Coyotes of Carthage” by Steven Wright.

Previous Gaines award winning books include “Lot” by Bryan Washington; “A Lucky Man” by Jamel Brinkley; “Birds of Opulence” by Crystal Wilkinson; “Welcome to Braggsville” by T. Geronimo Johnson; “The Cutting Season” by Attica Locke; “We Are Only Taking What We Need” by Stephanie Powell Watts; and “How to Read the Air” by Dinaw Mengestu, and others.