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Announcing the 2021 Creative Nonfiction Prize Winner

We are delighted to announce the winner, runner-up, and finalists of Indiana Review‘s 2021 Creative Nonfiction Prize, judged by Anna Qu. Thank you to everyone who submitted their work!


“To Speak, To Sing” by Rose Nguyen

What Anna Qu had to say about this piece:

I often wonder about the complexity of losing our native language, which is usually not far behind a loss of self, culture, and motherland, and the effects it has on who we become. The loss is palpable, intrinsic, and constant. When we recognize and understand the loss—the immense territory—we reach for it, only to have it move like quicksand, like grabbing fistfuls of sand in an attempt to capture the rocks they once were. We may whisper a promise, a commitment, ways we can dedicate to regain the territory back. We hope to hold the line, right a wrong, and stake our claim over our loss of family, legacy, and history, but the quicksand shifts again. And then, life gets in the way.

The entryway of this quiet yet poignant piece is a soothing balm on an angry, neglected wound. It is the effect of a century spent assimilating many of us—immigrants, 1.5 generation immigrants, first-generation, second-generation—while demanding we choose sides and discard what feels useless, inconsequential, or even shameful in an effort to present more American. This piece asks, “How do we find our way out of this loss?” And where does it leave us?

The only way forward is to loosen our grasp. Like “To Speak, To Sing,” we must find and create spaces of healing and community. If we’re lucky, we’ll find similarly displaced friends, a diaspora of communities honoring and making new memories by taking language classes, hosting pot lucks, singing at Karaoke bars, and creating new traditions. “To Speak, To Sing,” reminds us to find joy in the company we keep on this journey, this path.


“The Ordinary” – Alison Powell


“Giving, or Refugee Love Language” – Lilly Nguyen

“The Sweet Spot” – N.R. Robinson

“Lost” – Jaya Wagle

“Intrusions” – Ruby Wang

You can read “To Speak, To Sing” in Indiana Review issue 44.1, forthcoming in Summer 2022. A million thanks to our judge and to everyone who supported our prize this year!