For his novel-in-progress God Gave Us the Animals, which looks at Ugandan gay refugees through the eyes of an American fabulist reporter, John McManus received a 2013 Creative Capital Literature grant. He spent 2014 in South Africa on a Fulbright scholar grant, researching the same project and teaching creative writing at the University of Cape Town.
McManus became the youngest-ever recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award in 2000, following publication of his first book, Stop Breakin Down.
In 2001 he received the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ New Writing Award. Virginia Poet Laureate George Garrett wrote the following in fellowship’s award citation that year:
“The stories in Stop Breakin Down, this first and widely praised book by John McManus, are arresting for several reasons. Subject, certainly: all behavior in these narratives is violently carried to its extreme in every case. Language, too, noticeably. McManus has the desire and the ability to push his language toward a similar extreme and to transform it radically, as Cormac McCarthy and, before him, William Faulkner have done. Fierceness, too: the best of McManus’s stories have some of the ferocity that Flannery O’Connor brought to her vision of her material.
Together with these qualities—and underlying all of them—is this writer’s sensitivity to place. John McManus comes from the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, but that is only one of the settings he faithfully renders. He is equally authoritative when writing about the western desert of the Pacific northwest or a number of northeastern urban environments. ‘Setting’ is too weak a word for the exact attention that he gives to landscapes—an attention so intense that it goes beyond love or loathing. In a McManus story ‘setting’ is the artery that brings the narrative its life blood.
That sense of place is a trait of the Southern writer, no matter where it is exercised. John McManus gives us, here and now at the beginning of the twenty-first century, another strong example of how Southern writing can be transplanted so as to thrive almost anywhere without ever being deracinated.
It is a pleasure to present this award for New Writing on behalf of the Fellowship of Southern Writers to Mr. McManus.”