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Prize-Winning Essays


The Don D. Walker prize is sponsored by the Western Literature Association and is given annually to the best essay published in western American literary studies during the previous calendar year. Congratulations to the following MELUS authors!


Winner of the 2016 Don D. Walker prize

Miriam Michelson’s Yellow Journalism and the Multi-Ethnic West
Lori Harrison-Kahan and Karen E. H. Skinazi

Comments from the committee members:

"In addition to recovering a best-selling, second-generation Jewish immigrant writer committed to representing multi-ethnic America in ways that resisted dominant conceptions of race and race relations, the authors tell a great story in this article. I particularly appreciate how they situate Michelson in American literary history and Western literary history, with the links to Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Edna Ferber, for example, as the most compelling. It’s fantastic.”

"This is obviously Western, yet also engaged with the Pacific world, necessarily including considerations of imperialism and Indigeneity, and is vastly multi-ethnic and multi-generic in scope. I particularly was compelled by its incorporation of Jewish literary traditions into the multi-ethnic West in its turn to women's journalistic work in the early 20th century.”

“Its power lies in its recovery of a little remembered Jewish frontier author and her richly multi-ethnic archive—including representations of Hawaiian, Irish American, Indigenous, and Chinese immigrant peoples. Michelson’s diversity challenges us to keep revising our understanding of cross-racial encounters and multi-ethnic populations of the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century West.”



2016 Honorable Mention

El “Adiós Tejas” in El Corrido Pensilvanio: Migration, Place, and Politics in South Texas
Jaime Javier Rodríguez

Comments from committee members:

“The author discusses how orality and folk narrative layer both historical and present-day Mexican-American experience with multiple strands of meaning packed into these deceptively simple lyrics. He's extending the pioneering border studies work of Américo Paredes in a most interesting way, mining Chicano/a oral traditions to explore the Mexican-American dynamic that today extends beyond traditional Aztlán territory to places as far-flung as Pennsylvania.”

“This essay offers a new vision of corridos, particularly in terms of its discussion of place, where corridos are not just regional--say, understood as they commonly are as a the folkloric tradition of Mexican South Texas--but instead transnational in ways that exceed the U.S.-Mexico border and are immersed in the global. I was compelled by the connection between the regional and the global and how the author argues for a more nuanced understanding of Mexican American experience beyond oft-deployed tropes of hybridity.”

"I was captivated by the historicized movement from Mexico to Texas to Pennsylvania in this cultural and textual analysis, and I very much appreciated the reach from close reading to larger questions about global identity formation, political activism, and Mexican American experience in the U.S.”