Rion Amilcar Scott awarded 2020 Towson Prize for Literature

By Rebecca Kirkman on May 27, 2020

Maryland author honored for “The World Doesn’t Require You”

Portrait of Rion Amilcar Scott
(Photo by Rebecca Aranda)

Maryland native Rion Amilcar Scott has received this year’s Towson University Prize for Literature for his critically acclaimed collection of short stories.

“The World Doesn’t Require You” (Liveright, 2019), a follow-up to his 2016 award-winning debut collection “Insurrections,” has been hailed by NPR as “one of the most inventive books of the year.”

The collection of stories returns to the fictional community of Cross River, Maryland, a largely black settlement founded in 1807 after the only successful slave revolt in the United States. Scott returns to Cross River to tell the stories of its residents in “The World Doesn't Require You.”

In a review for the New York Times, Salamishah Tillet writes, “Rion Amilcar Scott proves himself an impressive myth-slayer and fable-maker.”

“The World Doesn’t Require You” was named one of the best reads of the year by The Washington Post, NPR, Buzzfeed, the Library Journal and the New York Public Library.

"The World Doesn't Require You" book cover

It approaches themes of religion, violence and love with humor and magical realism. Among Cross River's residents are David Sherman, a struggling musician who just happens to be God’s last son; Tyrone, a ruthless Ph.D. candidate whose dissertation about a childhood game ignites mayhem; and Jim, an all-too-obedient robot who serves his master. As the book builds to its finish, the reader comes to appreciate the intricacy of the world Scott has created—one where fantasy and reality are eternally at war.

Raised in Silver Spring, Scott received an MFA from George Mason University and teaches creative writing at the University of Maryland.

His debut story collection was awarded the 2017 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and the 2017 Hillsdale Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His work has been published in journals such as The New Yorker, The Kenyon Review, Crab Orchard Review and The Rumpus, among others. He has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writing Conference, Kimbilio and the Colgate Writing Conference as well as a 2019 Maryland Individual Artist Award.

Established in 1979 with a grant from Alice and Franklin Cooley, the Towson University Prize for Literature is awarded annually for a single book or book-length manuscript of fiction, poetry, drama or imaginative nonfiction by a Maryland writer. The prize is granted on the basis of literary and aesthetic excellence as determined by a panel of distinguished judges appointed by the university.