HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Stephanie Powell Watts

Fiction Writer and Author of No One Is Coming to Save Us


  • Fiction Writing
  • African American Literature
  • Contemporary Short Fiction
  • An Evening with Stephanie Powell Watts


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Stephanie Powell Watts is an associate professor of English at Lehigh University, and has won numerous awards, including a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and the Southern Women’s Writers Award for Emerging Writer of the Year. She was also a Chautauqua Prize and PEN/Hemingway Prize finalist for her short-story collection We Are Taking Only What We Need. In April 2017, Watt’s debut novel No One Is Coming to Save Us (Ecco) debuted.

In June 2017 No One Is Coming to Save Us was selected as the inaugural Sarah Jessica Parker pick for the American Library Association’s Book Club Central. The novel was named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly, Nylon, Elle, Redbook, W Magazine, and The Chicago Review of Books.

No One Is Coming to Save Us is a revelatory debut from an insightful voice; with echoes of The Great Gatsby it is an arresting and powerful novel about an extended African American family in North Carolina and their colliding visions of the American Dream. In evocative prose, Watts crafted a full and stunning portrait that combines a universally resonant story with an intimate glimpse into the hearts of one family.

Watts shares her passion for writing and reading with audiences ranging from libraries to schools to literary conference events.

Born in the foothills of North Carolina, Watts received her BA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her PhD from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and her son.

Praise for No One Is Coming to Save Us:

“Watts writes about ordinary people leading ordinary lives with an extraordinary level of empathy and attention...The novel’s intricately plotted relationships pay off satisfyingly in its final chapters.”
— New York Times Book Review

“Watts is so captivating a writer. She’s unusually deft with dialogue…[The novel is] conveyed in a prose style that renders the common language of casual speech into natural poetry, blending intimate conversation with the rhythms of gossip, town legend, even song lyrics...An indelible story.”
— Washington Post

“Watts’s book envisions a backwoods African-American version of The Great Gatsby. The circumstances of her characters are vastly unlike Fitzgerald’s, and those differences are what make this novel so moving.”
— Janet Maslin, New York Times

“Imagine The Great Gatsby, only set in the contemporary American South, and retold with black characters, rather than the lily-shite Long Island set. Watts’ retelling is smart, unsettling, at times hilarious, and a wonderful update to this classic American novel.”
— Nylon Magazine

“Watts’ lyrical writing and seamless floating between characters’ viewpoints make for a harmonious narrative chorus. This feels like an important, largely missing part of our ongoing American story. Ultimately, Watts offers a human tale of resilience and the universally understood drive to hang on and do whatever it takes to save oneself.”
— Booklist

“Patient yet rich...Watts powerfully depicts the struggles many Americans face trying to overcome life’s inevitable disappointments. But it’s the compassion she feels for her characters’ vulnerability and desires...that make the story so relevant and memorable.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Deeply evocative.”
— W Magazine

“Inspired by The Great Gatsby, Watts loosely (masterfully, too) retells the American saga from the present day perspective of a once thriving African American community, breathing fresh life into a classic in a way that feels more essential, more moving than the original.”
— Marie Claire

“A deep, moving read.”
— Real Simple

“They say if you love something, you should set it free. Not so in Stephanie Powell Watts’ powerful debut novel...This timely novel sheds its green light on economic and emotional heartbreak and the spaces where the living meet the dead.”
— Vanity Fair

“[Watts’] great gift is her instinct for empathy...No One is Coming to Save Us proves to be not just a pleasure on its own terms, but also a compassionate and well-timed social commentary, wherein people like us endeavor, falter, and finally endure.”
— O, the Oprah Magazine

“Watts excels at physical descriptions that give texture to the world of the novel… In the best possible way, this is the kind of book that makes a reader yearn for her next one.”
— Time

“Watts, with her knowing touch and full-bodied prose, delivers a resonant meditation on life and the comfort both in dreaming and in moving forward.”
— USA Today

“The Great Gatsby migrates to the American South in Watts’ powerful novel.”
— Entertainment Weekly

“The characters will draw you in...From their perspective, we’re given a story about what happens when the past refuses to remain where we’ve buried it.”
— Associated Press

“ A strong story of hope and pain and longing...Watts excels at showing the dense relationships among characters as they strive for hope and reinvention...A memorable and moving tale.”
— Dallas Morning News

“Watts winks at Gatsby while shining her literary light on black women...The American dream served with sweet tea, sympathy and deep insights.”
— People

“The novel is infused with haunting lines about the persistence of the past and the danger of hope.”
— Pittsburg Post-Gazette

“Wistful, eloquent, heartfelt and humane...[Watts] channels Toni Morrison’s masterful direct address with great success... The overwhelming power of this remarkable novel rests in its ability to face excruciating truths with optimism through its singing prose”
— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Brilliant, timely... The premise and plot are so clever... [Watts] has done something marvelous here, demonstrating that the truths illuminated in a classic American novel are just as powerful for black Americans.”
— Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Terrific ... A timely, beautiful story that deserves a spot on the shelf next to F. Scott Fitzgerald.”
— Minnesota Public Radio

“The Great Gatsby is revived in an accomplished debut novel...Watts spins a compelling tale of obsessive love and dashed dreams...Watts’ gently told story, like Fitzgerald’s, is only superficially about money but more acutely about the urgent, inexplicable needs that shape a life.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Stephanie Powell Watts’s inspired reimagining of the novel long regarded as the American masterwork of the twentieth century gives soul, body, and voice to those left out of Scott Fitzgerald’s vision of the American dream... bold, brilliant, and timely. It is just what contemporary American fiction needs.”
— Sigrid Nunez, author of The Last of Her Kind and Sempre Susan

“A grand debut novel full of characters who come into a reader’s mind and heart and never leave. Stephanie Powell Watts is a writer of wondrous skill, imagination and sensitivity, and No One Is Coming to Save Us is a beautiful testament to that.”
— Edward P. Jones

“Rich with wry and poignant observations on human nature, family, and black experience in America. A powerful-and, in today’s world, necessary -perspective on the American dream and the possibility of beginning again.”
— Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You

“There is wisdom, vital and profound, on every single page of this novel. It’s a story about home -- what it means to leave and whether you can return, and how it is people in the end who are its beating heart. Absolutely luminous.”
— Cristina Henríquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans

“An arresting debut.”
— Essence