Pushcart Prize nominated stories: “Heathen,” “The Boy Who Would Be Oloye,” and “Children of New Orleans”
Received the award for Distinguished Alumnus of the MFA Creative Writing Workshop on November 6, 2015.
The William Faulkner Society selected an excerpt of the novel (working title: All of the Lights) winner of the 2014 Novel in Progress Award.
category final judge M.O. Walsh observed:
“All of the Lights is more than a novel in progress. It is an absolute gift. The story of a black lawyer in an all-white firm, battling personal demons and marital challenges, racism and the complications of ambition, this is a novel with every level of conflict you could ask for: internal, external, familial, racial, social, immediate, and looming. Yet, in spite of this, All of the Lights also manages to be quickly paced and funny. It feels heartfelt and true because the author is the real deal and his characters—BL, Penny, and Nigel—are the benefactors of his skill. So, of course, are we. This is a novel to fly through once for pleasure and then return to savor the little things you may have missed; all the gems scattered about in the author’s clear prose and insight. Ruffin seems to know what makes us human, what makes us interesting, and a book like All of the Lights, the promise of it, is the reason I read. I’ll be shocked if we don’t see this one on bookshelves soon.”
Novelist Rachel Kushner selected “The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You” winner of the 2014 Iowa Review Awards Fiction Contest. Kushner writes:
“This story grabs and doesn’t let go. It telegraphs a host of conflicting sensations, and powerfully: boredom, violence, dreams, an innocence that is free of narrative cliche or any cliche.”
“The Anchor Song” won the 2014 So to Speak Journal fiction contest, judged by Charles Blackstone. Blackstone commented:
“Voice is one of the trickiest things in prose. Too often we’re caught up in telling a story, but without a strong voice to steer a narrative, there really can’t be a story to tell. And it’s especially tricky to pull off an authentic voice in fiction when a protagonist is at a remove, intellectually, philosophically, socio-economically, from the story’s author. Yet it’s in this distance that really interesting fictive terrain lies, so we continue to mine the psychically unfamiliar. In less successful attempts, the author’s voice intrudes, disrupting, as John Gardner put it, the vivid, continuous dream that fiction is and should be. But we know from a spectrum of voices in contemporary literature, from Faulkner’s Benjy down through Junot Díaz’s Junior in Drown (and a certain four-legged protagonist from Dave Eggers’s “After I was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned”), that it is possible to pull off—in the right hands. “The Anchor Song” accomplishes, technically, stylistically, emotionally, something refreshingly powerful. It’s a story that offers an honest, intelligent view into edgy, gritty terrain. And it does so without pandering, without editorializing, without reduction, without didacticism. Ruffin’s story can—and should—be read as an epitome of twenty-first-century short fiction.”
It’s Good to See That You’re Awake selected winner of the 2013 Joanna Leake Prize for Fiction Thesis, given by the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop.
“The Pie Man” won the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop’s 2011 Ernest Svenson Fiction Award for short story.
“The Pie Man” was also selected as a finalist in the 2010 William Faulkner Society’s Creative Writing Competition.
Final judge Tom Franklin said:
“A tragic story of American life gone askew but trying, ever trying, to right itself. This story’s terrific voice is what you notice first, the narrative reflecting the consciousness of a boy named Baby as he maneuvers through the aftermath of a violent crime. And it’s the story of The Pie Man, baby’s his half-present perhaps-father, a character damaged by war and unforgettably drawn. A beautiful story.”
The essay “St. Claude Avenue: Loss and Recovery on an Inner-City Artery,” which appears in Rebecca Solnit’s Unfathomable City, was blurbed in the Chicago Tribune:
“[It] is a map accompanying Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s open-hearted meditation on the uneasy push-pull of gentrification. It’s trimmed with rows of photographs showing the facades of Creole cottages, corner mom-and-pop business concerns. ‘St. Claude could become a center for artistic and economic innovation,’ Ruffin observes, ‘or it could morph into a parody of itself, a gentrified museum where well-meaning people flock to have ‘authentic’ interactions with a defunct culture.’
‘Authentic,’ of course, is code; it’s the essence — the soul — that animates. For so many months after Katrina, New Orleans was like an emptied-out body on a table, one that when we were not probing, we were delivering last rites to.”