The inaugural Sherley Anne Williams and Lawson Fusao Inada Writing Contest

The inaugural Sherley Anne Williams and Lawson Fusao Inada Writing Contest winners pose for a picture with Fresno State Faculty and Edison High School instructors.

By Kody Stoebig, Program Manager and Editor, The kNOw Youth Media

Republished with permission from

The inaugural Sherley Anne Williams and Lawson Fusao Inada Writing Contest was held at Edison High School this spring. The contest honored two renowned American writers who graduated from southwest Fresno’s Edison High in the mid-20th century and received their B.A. degrees from Fresno State. A collaborative endeavor among Edison High, Fresno State and The kNOw Youth Media, the contest had a dual focus: to celebrate the contributions of writers of color to the body of American literature and to support the aspirations of young writers at Edison High with the potential to contribute to this tradition. 

Judged by faculty in the English department and hosted by the College of Arts and Humanities at Fresno State, the writing contest builds on, and seeks to strengthen, the literary and academic connections between Edison High School and Fresno State as represented in the writerly careers of Sherley Anne Williams and Lawson Fusao Inada. The winning entries, which may be creative or critical, are linked below.

The winners are as follows:

Grades 9 & 10

Grades 11 & 12

Judges’ Award/Prize: for an entry that stood out from the rest, in this case an excellent critical analysis essay that was also the only one in its genre.

Dr. Samina Najmi
Dr. Samina Najmi

By Dr. Samina Najmi, Professor of English, Multiethnic U.S. Literature, California State University, Fresno

I had the privilege of judging the inaugural contest with my Fresno State colleagues – Professors Melanie Hernandez, Brynn Saito and Venita Blackburn. Together we read the works of Edison Tiger writers as they followed in the footsteps of Williams and Inada. 

We were awed and humbled by all of the submissions. They were diverse in genre and tone, and covered a staggering range of themes. We received poems, short stories and essays on trying to achieve the American Dream, on poverty and survival economies, crossing the border, autism and the manipulation of young minds. We received entries on farm-working girls in life and in fiction, forced marriages and genocide in Cambodia. 

We found hope in these writings and a sense of wonder at the world, and, on occasion, humor. But they also confront tough personal issues with bravery and beauty: depression, insomnia, the pressures of being the oldest sibling in an immigrant family, wanting to serve a country that doesn’t acknowledge you as a citizen, coming out to your family, gender dysphoria, abortion, motherhood and suicide. In these writings, the authors often achieved that highest accomplishment of art: they worked with the raw material of pain–their own or the world’s–and transmuted it into a thing of beauty. 

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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