UNC Asheville Welcomes John Vercher as the Inaugural Wilma Dykeman Writer-in-Residence

John Vercher
May 3, 2023

The University of North Carolina Asheville and the Wilma Dykeman Legacy are pleased to announce that John Vercher, author of the novel Three-Fifths, will join the campus as the inaugural Wilma Dykeman Writer-in-Residence. 

The Wilma Dykeman Writer-in-Residence Program is open to writers whose work embodies a passion for equity and inclusion and demonstrates a commitment to social, racial, environmental and/or gender justice. The residency offers the recipient four consecutive weeks between July 1 and October 31, 2023, to write in the quiet comfort of author and activist Wilma Dykeman’s home in Asheville, North Carolina. During his residency, Vercher will collaborate with UNC Asheville to plan an activity that will engage with the campus and Asheville community. 

“When I began my writing journey, I’d only dreamt of opportunities such as the one afforded by the Wilma Dykeman Writer-in-Residence award,” Vercher said. “Never did I imagine I’d have the great fortune of being selected for this dynamic and important program. To say I’m inspired to have the opportunity to create and write in the home of a woman who dedicated her creative efforts to equity and social justice when I aspire to do the same with my own writing only begins to describe the enormity of emotion I’m experiencing in this moment. 

“We are living in an era where our words are under fire, and I’m grateful that UNC Asheville is putting their institution at the forefront of a movement to change the world with our writing. I’m indebted to the committee for their confidence and belief in my work and am incredibly excited for a meaningful month creating in and engaging with the UNC Asheville community.”

Vercher’s debut novel, “Three-Fifths,” in which a savage hate crime impels a young man toward a deeper reckoning with his biracial identity, received starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, was named one of the best books of 2019 by the Chicago Tribune, and has sold in seven countries. In the U.K., “Three-Fifths” was named a Book of the Year by The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, and The Guardian.

Vercher’s second novel, “After the Lights Go Out,” was published by Soho Press in 2022 and has been called “simply brilliant” by Publishers Weekly in a starred review and “shrewd and explosive” by The New York Times. BookRiot selected the novel as a 2022 Best Book of the Summer; Publishers Weekly included it in their Summer Reads 2022 list; and Booklist named it an Editors’ Choice in Adult Fiction for 2022.

His forthcoming work, “Devil is Fine,” will be published in 2024.

Wilma Dykeman was a celebrated writer, speaker, activist and teacher. Born near Asheville, North Carolina, she became a ground-breaking environmentalist, a pioneering civil rights reporter, a best-selling novelist, and a founder of Appalachian Studies. 

Her accomplishments and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Sidney Hillman Award, the first woman trustee of Berea College, a Senior Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the first woman Tennessee State Historian, membership in the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, and membership in the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

The Wilma Dykeman Legacy was founded as a non-profit organization in 2012 to honor Wilma Dykeman’s extraordinary life and to sustain her core values of environmental integrity, social justice, and the power of the written and spoken word.  

The selection committee was chaired by Wiley Cash, award-winning author and UNC Asheville Writer-in-Residence, and includes: Susan Andrew, development manager for RiverLink; Mildred Barya, UNC Asheville assistant professor of English; and novelists Elizabeth Kostova and Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle.