The Inaugural Sherley Anne Williams & Lawson Fusao Inada Writing Contest

The inaugural Sherley Anne Williams and Lawson Fusao Inada Writing Contest was held at Edison High School this spring. The contest honored two renowned American writers who graduated from southwest Fresno’s Edison High in the mid-20th century and received their B.A. degrees from Fresno State. A collaborative endeavor among Edison High, Fresno State and The kNOw Youth Media, the contest had a dual focus: to celebrate the contributions of writers of color to the body of American literature and to support the aspirations of young writers at Edison High with the potential to contribute to this tradition.  Judged by faculty in the English department and hosted by the College of Arts and Humanities at Fresno State, the writing contest builds on, and seeks to strengthen, the literary and academic connections between Edison High School and Fresno State as represented in the writerly careers of Sherley Anne Williams and Lawson Fusao Inada. The winning entries, which may be creative or critical, will be published here with The kNOw Youth Media. The winners are as follows:

Grades 9 & 10

Grades 11 & 12

Judges’ Award/Prize: for an entry that stood out from the rest, in this case an excellent critical analysis essay that was also the only one in its genre.

I had the privilege of judging the inaugural contest with my Fresno State colleagues – Professors Melanie Hernandez, Brynn Saito and Venita Blackburn. Together we read the works of Edison Tiger writers as they followed in the footsteps of Williams and Inada. 

We were awed and humbled by all of the submissions. They were diverse in genre and tone, and covered a staggering range of themes. We received poems, short stories and essays on trying to achieve the American Dream, on poverty and survival economies, crossing the border, autism and the manipulation of young minds. We received entries on farmworking girls in life and in fiction, forced marriages and genocide in Camobodia. 

We found hope in these writings and a sense of wonder at the world, and, on occasion, humor. But they also confront tough personal issues with bravery and beauty: depression, insomnia, the pressures of being the oldest sibling in an immigrant family, wanting to serve a country that doesn’t acknowledge you as a citizen, coming out to your family, gender dysphoria, abortion, motherhood and suicide. In these writings, the authors often achieved that highest accomplishment of art: they worked with the raw material of pain–their own or the world’s–and transmuted it into a thing of beauty. 

I invite you to read and savor the seven winning entries The kNOw will be posting in the coming weeks. For their passion, courage, and sparkle, I can imagine no more perfect home for them than The kNOw.

Samina Najmi
Professor of English
Multiethnic U.S. Literature 
California State University, Fresno

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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