Dawn Turner

Spring 2018 Resident Fellow

Author and Former Columnist for The Chicago Tribune

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Dawn Turner is an award-winning journalist and novelist. A former columnist and reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Turner spent a decade and a half writing about race and class, as well as telling the individual stories of people who fly below the radar.

Turner, who served as a 2017 and 2018 judge for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary, has written commentary for The Washington Post, “The CBS Sunday Morning News Show,” National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” show and the “Chicago Tonight” show. She covered Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election and inauguration and was a regular commentator for several BBC News programs and NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” show. She has appeared on CNN, the “PBS NewsHour,” and NBC’s “Nightly News.” She also has reported from around the world in places such as Sydney, Australia; Shanghai, China; Nice, France; and Accra, Ghana, for an upcoming book.

Turner is the rare journalist who uses her journalism to craft fictionalized tales that unfold in a sort of “ripped from the headlines” way. Her first novel, Only Twice I’ve Wished for Heaven, is set in 1970s Chicago and tells the story of the untimely (and, to some, inconvenient) death of a girl growing up in an experimental and gated black community carved out of the ghetto. The New York Times called Only Twice, “touching and memorable.” The Washington Post said the novel was “a polished gem that shines from every angle, rich in rhythm, story and characterization... A genuine delight.” The Dallas Morning News said: “Dawn Turner Trice has written a magical, word-wise, utterly original novel of love and hate, secrets and revelations that stands not only on its own merits but heralds the arrival of an intelligent, confident writer well worth watching.”

Only Twice received book “blurbs” and high praise from authors Maya Angelou, Louise Erdrich, Gloria Naylor, Charles Johnson and Tina McElroy Ansa. It was published in French as De l’autre cote du paradis; won an Alex Award; and has been anthologized widely. The novel also was a “Notable Book of the Year” for the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

Turner’s second novel, An Eighth of August, about a small-town family and their annual celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, achieved similar acclaim. An excerpt from a third novel, which is in-progress, won Turner a highly competitive National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.

Turner spent the 2014-2015 school year as a Nieman Journalism fellow at Harvard University, spending much of her time at the Law School and in the English Department, studying the art of storytelling. She’s now adapting Only Twice as a television mini-series. From her pitch she writes, “In the end, the story isn’t solely about why a child dies. It’s more about the conditions (created by the adults) that lead to her death and, like in too many communities today, make it a foregone conclusion.”