Six of seven finalists for NBCC’s John Leonard Prize for Best First Book are by women

The National Book Critics Circle announced this morning the seven finalists for the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book — and all but one were written by women.

The list is a mix of fiction, memoir, and essays and reflects the diversity of accomplished young (or at least first-time) authors.

Fleishman Is In Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Random House)

The Yellow House: A Memoir, Sarah M. Broom (Grove)

The Unpassing, Chia-Chia Lin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir, T Kira Madden (Bloomsbury)

Disappearing Earth, Julia Phillips (Knopf)

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, Jia Tolentino (Random House)

Lot: Stories, Bryan Washington (Riverhead)

Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House, about a hundred years in a New Orleans family, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction last week, and Julia Phillips’ Disappearing Earth, the story of two missing girls and the reaction of their isolated community on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, was a finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction. Last month, Bryan Washington won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for Lot, his collection of stories about life in the hidden Houston.


Fleishman is in Trouble turns the recently-divorced-and-disoriented-man plot on its head, surprising many readers with its humor, insight, and plot twist. The Unpassing takes readers to the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska, where an immigrant family from Taiwan confronts personal and cultural struggles, including the death of a child.


T Kira Madden’s Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Daughters details her life growing up queer and biracial in the privileged community of Boca Raton, Florida. Trick Mirror has quickly established Jia Tolentino as “the voice of a generation” with her penetrating analysis and commentary on this particularly fraught, social media-obsessed time.

Nominations for the John Leonard Prize for a first book in any genre are solicited from the voting  members of the NBCC. Finalists for the Prize are the titles that received the most nominations. A panel of NBCC member-volunteers will read the finalists and select the winner, which will be announced on January 11, 2020. The John Leonard Prize will be presented at the NBCC Awards Ceremony in New York City on March 12, 2020.



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