Crossover Award for Literary Nonfiction Goes to Central Florida Writer Melanie Farmer

Provided by ESPN


Washington, DC—The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation’s 2020 Crossover Award goes to Melanie Farmer, a writer and educator, based in Central Florida.  Farmer wins a $2,000 cash prize and free tuition to attend a Hurston/Wright Writing Workshop, both sponsored by ESPN’s The Undefeated.

Farmer wins the literary nonfiction prize for her work titled, “Rolling: A Ladies’ Guide to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.”  

The competition was judged by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Colson Whitehead, author of The Nickel Boys, The Underground Railroad, and The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death.   In selecting Farmer’s piece Whitehead said, “‘Rolling: A Ladies’ Guide to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’ is a wise and wry take on identity formation, parental expectations, and proper martial arts attire. Following a young woman’s journey from student to teacher, this thoughtful essay’s nimble voice provides a lively exploration of family bonds and the search for self-mastery.”  

The Crossover Award, which debuted this year in partnership with ESPN’s the Undefeated, is the Hurston/Wright Foundation’s newest award.  The award honors probing, provocative, and original new voices in literary nonfiction whose writing exemplifies The Undefeated’s “Not Conventional, Never Boring” mantra.  Almost 30 adult writers from over 20 states submitted their work for the 2020 competition.  The competition is judged blindly and the judge has sole discretion in making the selection. This is the first year that the award has been sponsored by ESPN’s The Undefeated.  

Kevin Merida, ESPN senior vice president and editor-in- chief of The Undefeated, said: “We are proud to partner with the Hurston/Wright Foundation to shine a light on original new voices in literary nonfiction. Congrats to Melanie Farmer for winning our inaugural Crossover Award. Keep rising, shake up the world.”

The Crossover Award winner will be honored at the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards ceremony. Details regarding the ceremony, which typically takes place in Washington, D.C., will be made public in the coming months. The Legacy Awards ceremony also features the announcement of the winners of the juried awards for debut fiction, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as presentation of awards for college writers and career achievement. More than 200 literary stars and representatives of the publishing industry, media, politics, arts, and academia participate in the annual ceremony.

The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation was founded in 1990 in Washington, D.C., and is dedicated to discovering, mentoring and honoring Black writers. Through workshops, master classes and readings, the organization preserves the voices of Black writers in the world literary canon, serves as a community for writers, and continues a tradition of literary excellence in storytelling established by its namesakes. The Hurston/Wright Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Learn more at  

The Undefeated is ESPN’s multiplatform content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture. The digital hub,, which launched in May 2016, combines innovative long-form and short-form storytelling, investigation, original reporting and provocative commentary to enlighten and entertain African Americans, as well as sports fans seeking a deeper understanding of black athletes, culture and related issues. In addition to its cutting-edge content, The Undefeated seeks to be a thought-leader on race, sports and culture in the country – convening insightful forums to discuss and debate topical issues affecting sports and race in America.  

Michiel Perry

Michiel is a Black Southern Belle living a lowcountry life. I love all things fashion, home decor and southern! When I am not running around doing fun stuff for Black Southern Belle, I live in antique stores and have a minor obsession with historic homes 🙂

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