Claire Vaye Watkins

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Claire Vaye Watkins
Claire Vaye Watkins (c) Heike Steinweg.jpg
Born (1984-04-09) April 9, 1984 (age 36)
Bishop, California, US
OccupationNovelist, short story writer, essayist, college professor
Alma materUniversity of Nevada, Reno,
Ohio State University
GenresLiterary fiction, non-fiction
SubjectLandscape, the politics of woman and girlhood, environmental health.
Notable worksBattleborn (2012) Gold Fame Citrus (2015)
Notable awardsGuggenheim
SpouseDerek Palacio

Claire Vaye Watkins (born April 9, 1984) is an American author and academic.[1]

Her book of short stories Battleborn (Riverhead Books, 2012), won The Story Prize, among other awards. In 2012 the National Book Foundation named her a "5 under 35" honoree. Of her parents' influence on her award-winning collection, Watkins has said, “My father’s story is more in the collective subconscious but my mom’s is closer to the project.” [2] In 2014 Watkins was the recipient of the Guggenheim Award.[3]

Her debut novel, Gold Fame Citrus, was published in 2015. Watkins currently teaches creative writing at the University of California, Irvine.[4]


Claire Vaye Watkins was born in Bishop, California in 1984. She was raised in the Mojave Desert, first in Tecopa, California and then across the state line in Pahrump, Nevada.[1] Watkins received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Nevada, Reno and her Master of Fine Arts from Ohio State University where she was a Presidential fellow. Watkins is currently a faculty member at the University of California, Irvine, where she teaches creative writing.[4] Previously, she has taught as a visiting assistant professor at Princeton University, an assistant professor at Bucknell University, and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan's Helen Zell Writers' Program.[3]


Watkins published Battleborn, a collection of short stories, in 2012 with publishing house Riverhead. The New York Times reviewed her collection as being "brutally unsentimental,"[5] writing that "Watkins’s characters wish to make sense of their pain, but also to be assured that they are not alone in it." [5] The New Yorker wrote that Watkins was within a genre entirely new: "Nevada Gothic".[6]Battleborn won many prizes, including The Story Prize, The Dylan Thomas Prize, The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, The Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and The Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.[3]

Watkins questioned her motives of publishing Battleborn in the 2016 Winter Issue of Tin House in her essay, "On Pandering," which appeared to critical reception[7] and, according to the New Yorker, was "discussed heatedly for weeks, even months, thereafter."[8] "So, natural then," writes Watkins, "that Battleborn was well-received by the white male [literary] establishment: it was written for them. The whole book’s a pander."[9] Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams called it a "must-read essay"[10] and Jia Tolentino of called it "fiery" and "unusually honest," suggesting "it will be talked about for quite some time."[11] Originally, "On Pandering" was given as a lecture during the 2015 Tin House Summer Writers' Workshop.

Gold Fame Citrus, published in 2015 by Riverhead,[12] is a speculative fiction novel focused on the Californian drought. It is Watkins' second book and first novel.[13] The work received positive reviews.[14] Slate called her debut novel, "enthralling,"[13] and The Guardian praised Watkins' ability to render landscape as extraordinary.[15] In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, reviewer Emily St. John Mandel wrote that "[a] great pleasure of the book is Watkins’s fearlessness."[16] The book received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly which said it was "packed with persuasive detail, luminous writing, and a grasp of the history (popular, political, natural, and imagined) needed to tell a story that is original yet familiar, strange yet all too believable."[17]

A finalist for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, Watkins was also selected as one of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35."


She is the daughter of Martha Watkins, who Watkins describes as “this incredible dynamo, a great bullshitter",[2] and Paul Watkins,[18] a former member of Charles Manson's "Family".

Watkins is married to writer Derek Palacio.[19] Together they have a daughter.

Awards and honors[edit]


  • Battleborn, Penguin Publishing Group, 2012, ISBN 978-1-101-59675-3.
  • Gold Fame Citrus Penguin Publishing Group. 2015, ISBN 978-0-698-19594-3.
  • "On Pandering", 2015, Tin House.[24]


  1. ^ a b "ABOUT". Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b Smith, Claiborne (4 August 2012). "Claire Vaye Watkins on Growing up Manson and "Battleborn"". Retrieved 20 February 2018 – via
  3. ^ a b c "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Claire Watkins". Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  4. ^ a b "MFA Faculty | UCI Department of English". Retrieved 2020-10-02.
  5. ^ a b Nelson, Antonya (2012-09-21). "'Battleborn,' by Claire Vaye Watkins". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  6. ^ "Nevada Gothic: An Interview with Claire Vaye Watkins". The New Yorker. 2013-05-20. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  7. ^ "On Poverty « Kenyon Review Blog". Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  8. ^ "What Makes an Essay American". The New Yorker. 2016-05-13. Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  9. ^ "On Pandering | Tin House". Archived from the original on 2016-08-12. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  10. ^ Williams, Mary Elizabeth. "This must-read essay lights a match, aims for the sexist book world: "Let us burn this motherf*cking system to the ground"". Salon. Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  11. ^ Tolentino, Jia. "Who You Write For Is Who You Love". Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  12. ^ Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins |
  13. ^ a b O'Neal, Lauren (2015-10-05). "The Death of the California Dream". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  14. ^ Bengal, Rebecca. "A Vivid New Novel Takes On the California Drought: Claire Vaye Watkins Talks Gold Fame Citrus". Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  15. ^ Jordan, Justine (2016-02-10). "Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins review – a wild trip in the American west". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  16. ^ Mandel, Emily St John (2015-10-02). "'Gold Fame Citrus,' by Claire Vaye Watkins". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  17. ^ "Fiction Book Review: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins". Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  18. ^ "Keeping it in the family". 24 March 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  19. ^ "Claire Vaye Watkins | BookCourt". Archived from the original on 2016-08-22. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  20. ^ "Short Stories To Savor On A Winter Weekend". Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  21. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (2013-03-13). "Story Prize goes to Claire Vaye Watkins". Retrieved 2013-05-01.
  22. ^ "Dylan Thomas Prize: US writer Claire Vaye Watkins wins £30,000". BBC News. November 7, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
  23. ^ Alison Flood (31 May 2013). "Frank O'Connor short story award pits UK authors against international stars". The Guardian. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  24. ^ "On Pandering". Tin House. 2015-11-23. Retrieved 2020-04-29.