The Department of English is happy to announce that Professor Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has been appointed the Paul and Carol Daube Sutton Chair in English, pending the expected approval of the Board of Regents.
This has been an especially exciting year for our brilliant colleague. The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois, Professor Jeffers’ debut novel, has just been selected as an Oprah Winfrey Book Club Novel. It is the epic story of Ailey Paul Garfield and her search for her own heritage, a story that Professor Jeffers calls “a love letter to black women.” In her New York Times review of the novel, Veronica Chambers writes,
“The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois” is quite simply the best book that I have read in a very, very long time. I will avoid the cliché of calling it “a great American novel.” Maybe the truest thing I could say is that this is an epic tale of adventure that brings to mind characters you never forget: Meg Murry in “A Wrinkle in Time,” Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Huckleberry Finn.
Ron Charles of The Washington Post writes in his review,
Whatever must be said to get you to heft this daunting debut novel by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, I’ll say, because “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois” is the kind of book that comes around only once a decade. Yes, at roughly 800 pages, it is, indeed, a mountain to climb, but the journey is engrossing, and the view from the summit will transform your understanding of America.
Of course, an endowed professorship is bestowed not for singular achievement, but for a lifetime of extraordinary work. An award-winning poet, Professor Jeffers has previously published The Age of Phillis, an innovative book of poetry informed by her archival work on Phillis Wheatley, who published a book of poetry in 1773. The Age of Phillis won the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Literary Work and was Poetry Finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award in Literature and long-listed for the National Book Award in Poetry. Her past awards include induction into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame, and her work has been supported by many fellowships, including her current Mellon Fellowship. “For over twenty years,” states her website, “she’s been lifting her voice on issues of Black culture, racism, American history, and gender through the medium of writing.”
We celebrate Professor Jeffers for all of her achievements and thanks Dean David Wrobel and Provost André-Denis Wright for bestowing this honor upon her.