Fil-Am writer Jia Tolentino wins $50K Whiting Award

/ 01:00 PM March 27, 2020

Jia Tolentino, winner of 2020 Whiting Award for Nonfiction. ELENA MUDD

NEW YORK — Filipino American essayist and music critic Jia Tolentino has won a 2020 Whiting Award in Nonfiction for her book Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, which was published last year and became a New York Times bestseller.

The Whiting Awards, of $50,000 each, are given annually to 10 emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama.


In response to the announcement of winners, Tolentino posted on Twitter, “Obscene to experience a blessing like this right now but I am so grateful to the Whiting Foundation to be included in this group. I hope I can pay the good forward.”

Since 1985, the Whiting Foundation has supported creative writing through the Whiting Awards, based on early accomplishment and the promise of great work to come.



The selection committee’s statement on Tolentino notes that she “is more than a chronicler of our particular moment; she is our critic and translator, a decoder who can see the profound in the ordinary.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

“Her debut collection of essays is a marvel, a book that captures what seems unknowable about the internet and what it is to grow up in its orbit, to become misshapen and seduced by it, defined by it. Tolentino chooses rigor and complexity even at the expense of comfort, interrogating her own complicity in the culture she critiques.

“These essays are compulsively readable, and shot through with surprise, offering us the delights of eloquence and the satisfactions of her deep, inquiring mind.”


Tolentino was born in Toronto, Canada and moved to Houston, Texas with her family when she was four years old. She has a master’s of fine arts in fiction from the University of Michigan.

She is a staff writer at The New Yorker and formerly the deputy editor at Jezebel. She lives in Brooklyn.


Trick Mirror includes nine essays which US and Canada section correspondent Patty Rivera describes as touching “on the spheres of public imagination that has shaped Tolentino’s understanding of herself.”

Read Rivera’s report on Tolentino’s book launch in Toronto last year and more of her thoughts on the book here.

Previous Filipino American recipients of the Whiting Award include short story writer Lysley Tenorio, who won in 2008. Tenorio is the author of short story collection Monstress.

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TAGS: 2020 Whiting Award in Nonfiction, award-winning Fil-Am writer, Jia Tolentino, nonfiction, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
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