Electric Lit Is Thrilled To Welcome Deesha Philyaw to Its Board of Directors

The acclaimed author’s commitment to ending gatekeeping electrifies our mission to make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive

photo credit: vanessa german

Electric Literature is excited to welcome Deesha Philyaw, acclaimed author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, to its board of directors.

Much of Philyaw’s fiction centers Black women, sex, and the Black church. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Philyaw’s debut short story collection, was published to immediate critical acclaim, and went on to win the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. It was also a Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction, and is being adapted for HBO Max with Tessa Thompson executive producing. 

Her next two books, the novel The True Confessions of First Lady Freeman and the story collection Girl, Look, recently sold to Mariner, a division of HarperCollins, in a major deal. 

“What excites me most about joining Electric Lit’s Board of Directors,” Philyaw says, “is their unwavering commitment to breaking down barriers for all writers, but especially writers whose voices we don’t often hear from. I’m thrilled to support a publication that takes real, tangible steps toward building a more equitable publishing industry, and helping emerging writers grow their audience.” 

In addition to her success as a writer, Philyaw is a proven champion of new and emerging writers. She is a current fellow of Baldwin for the Arts and Kimbilio Fiction, and has recently taught and mentored at Tin House, VONA, The University of Mississippi, and The Periplus Collective. Her commitment to giving back to the literary community and advocating for writers from marginalized communities is well-established, and comes in the form of fighting gatekeeping and opening doors for the writers who follow in her footsteps.  

“Deesha’s ability to inspire and energize those around her, in addition to the drive and determination she injects into her own career, is sure to excite our efforts to support and grow Electric Literature. She’s a friend, a confidante, and an endless resource for new ideas addressing age-old challenges. For me, Deesha Philyaw is a literary north star,” says Denne Michele Norris, Electric Literature’s editor-in-chief.  

Electric Literature’s connection with Philyaw extends back to 2017, when Norris acquired “Eula” from The Secret Lives of Church Ladies in her capacity as fiction editor of Apogee Journal. Another story from the collection, “When Eddie Levert Comes,” was later published in Electric Literature by executive director and fiction editor Halimah Marcus, and continues to be one of EL’s most read short stories.

“Not only is Deesha an exceptionally talented writer, her passion for giving back to her community is infectiously motivating. We are so fortunate to be able to count on her as a leader and mentor,” says Halimah Marcus. 

Philyaw will join board chair Andy Hunter, Electric Lit’s co-founder and founder and CEO of Bookshop.org, and board members Nicole Cliffe, Meredith Talusan, Pulitzer prize-winning author Michael Cunningham, and the vice president and executive editor of HarperCollins, Sara Nelson.

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