All finalists for Barnes & Noble’s “Discover Great New Writers” fiction award are women

the-lightkeepers  Homegoing  shelter

Abby Geni’s The Lightkeepers (Counterpoint Press), Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (Knopf), and Jung Yun’s Shelter (Picador) were today named the finalists in the fiction category of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award.

The nonfiction category included Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl, a memoir about her life as a botanist, as well as Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond and Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips.

Books are nominated by Barnes & Noble booksellers, and the finalists and winners are chosen by a committee of six distinguished writers.

In The Lightkeepers, according to the B&N announcement, “a young woman finds herself surrounded by an unreliable cast of characters on a remote archipelago–and caught in a murder mystery. Abby Geni’s sense of place and haunting narrative voice reminded us of Eowyn Ivey’s bestselling Discover pick The Snow Child and 2014 Discover Award Winner (Fiction), All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld.”

The Lightkeepers was longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s 2016 First Novel Prize, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and was praised by Francine Prose in the New York Times Book Review.

Homegoing “follows two branches of a family—one in America and the other in Africa–over 300 years, and the writing is so assured that it’s hard to believe this is a debut. This heartbreaking, beautiful book reminded us of Toni Morrison’s exquisite novels and an earlier Discover pick, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis.”

Gyasi’s debut novel won the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard First Book Prize, was named Debut Novel of the Year by NPR, and was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction’s 2016 First Novel Prize. It was named a New York Times 2016 Notable Book, one of Oprah’s 10 Favorite Books of 2016, and one of  Time‘s Top 10 Novels of 2016.

Regarding Shelter, B&N said, “Our jaws dropped as we read the shocking opening, and we couldn’t stop turning pages as a young father is forced to face his past – and his parents – in order to save his family’s future. This is a must-read for anyone who compulsively read Celeste Ng’s bestseller Everything I Never Told You.”

Shelter was longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s 2016 First Novel Prize, named one of the most anticipated books of the year by The Millions, and was the #1 Most Buzzed About Book of the Year in Buzz Feed. It received positive reviews in the New York Times, The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago TribuneEntertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, and Library Journal (starred review).

NBCC announces finalists for John Leonard Prize

the-mothers  The Girls  

Here Comes the Sun  Homegoing

The National Book Critics Circle announced on November 30 the finalists for the prestigious John Leonard Prize for best first novel. Four of the six finalists are women, three of whom are POC (Bennett, Dennis-Benn, and Gyasi). Four finalists are American; Dennis-Benn is a Jamaican living in Brooklyn and Max Porter is British. Gyasi was born in Ghana but moved to the U.S. at age two.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (Riverhead)
The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House)
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright)
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf)
The Nix by Nathan Hill (Knopf)
Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (Graywolf)

The finalists were determined by a membership-wide submission process, with the books receiving the most nominations being designated as the finalists. A new procedure for determining the winner was put in place this year. Approximately 50 members who volunteered to read all the finalists in a four-t0-six week period will choose the prize winner.

The winner will be announced in January. The John Leonard Prize will be presented at the NBCC Awards Ceremony at The New School in New York City on March 16, 2017.

Center for Fiction announces finalists for 2016 First Novel Prize

Center for Fiction First Novel Prize 2016 Finalists

The Center for Fiction in New York City has revealed the seven finalists for its prestigious First Novel Prize, narrowed down from the initial 25 nominees. Six of the seven authors are women, including five women of color.

The shortlist (alphabetical by title, matching the photos above from left to right):

Kia Corthron — The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter

Emma Cline — The Girls

Nicole Dennis-Benn — Here Comes the Sun

Yaa Gyasi — Homegoing

Krys Lee — How I Became a North Korean

Kaitlyn Greenidge — We Love You, Charlie Freeman

Garth Greenwell — What Belongs to You 


Read a brief synopsis of each finalist here.

The author of the winning book is awarded $10,000 and each shortlisted author receives $1,000. The winner will be announced at the Center’s Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner on Tuesday, December 6 at The Metropolitan Club.

The Center for Fiction has a good track record in selecting novels that went on to win awards like the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Prize, and the like. Previous winners include, in chronological order, Marisha Pessl for Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Viking), Junot Díaz for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead/Penguin), Hannah Tinti for The Good Thief (The Dial Press), Karl Marlantes for Matterhorn (Atlantic Monthly Press with El León Literary Arts), Bonnie Nadzam for Lamb (Other Press), Ben Fountain for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ecco/HarperCollins), Margaret Wrinkle for Wash (Atlantic Monthly Press), Tiphanie Yanique for Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead Books), and Viet Thanh Nguyen for The Sympathizer (Grove Press).

See the longlist here.

 

Summer Fiction Preview: A Dozen Books Worth Your Valuable Time

Memorial Day weekend is considered the unofficial start of summer. And that means not only can you now wear white pants, but you’ve finally got some time to do all that reading you’ve been looking forward to. And publishers always “cooperate” by releasing a passel of must-read novels and story collections between May and August. Because there are so many books worth sharing, I’ve split this preview into two parts. Part 1 covers May 31 to June 28. Look for Part 2, covering July 5 to September 13, soon!


May 31

Modern Lovers

Emma Straub — Modern Lovers (Riverhead)

In “The River,” Bruce Springsteen asked, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?” Straub catches up with the former members of a band as they build their family lives in Brooklyn, and suggests that there might be a third answer to that question: that some youthful enthusiasms remain beating quietly beneath the surface, to be revived later, when they’re truly needed.

June

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore — June (Crown)

MBW has mastered the smartly written melodrama, perfect for summer reading. In June, a young woman named Cassie is bereft following the death of her grandmother, the June of the title, who had raised her. But then Cassie learns that she is the heir to the fortune of aging Hollywood star Jack Montgomery. How can that be? Did he know June? When the star’s daughters dispute the will and show up in Cassie’s small Ohio town, they all learn the sinister truth about Jack and June, and face the consequences of a past they could never have imagined.


June 7

 

Homegoing

Yaa Gyasi — Homegoing (Knopf)

Some books have pre-publication buzz and some books have Big Buzz. Homegoing is the latter, one of the Big Books of Summer, generated in part by the auction that led to a seven-figure advance for Gyasi’s debut novel. The novel begins with two half-sisters in 18th century Ghana, one of whom is married to a British colonizer, the other sold into slavery. Their wildly divergent paths create the real attraction of Homegoing: the novel’s structure, which follows several descendants of the sisters up through the 21st century, exploring the rippling effects of family, history, slavery, and racism. It’s an ambitious and auspicious debut from an author we’ll no doubt be hearing a great deal from.

Goodnight, Beautiful Women

Anna Noyes — Goodnight, Beautiful Women (Grove Press)

Noyes’s collection offers a set of interconnected stories about women of all stripes, struggling to make their lives work in the midst of economic, family, and social challenges in Maine and elsewhere in New England. The characters move in and out of each other’s stories, the way we do in the real world, with effects both salutary and harmful.

Marrow Island

Alexis M. Smith — Marrow Island (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Smith blew me away with her slim but potent debut novel, Glaciers, in 2013. This time she expands her scope beyond the life of one quiet young woman in Portland. Lucie Bowen grew up on Marrow Island in the Puget Sound, until she and her mother were forced to flee to the mainland following an earthquake and oil refinery explosion that killed her father. Now, 20 years later, her best friend from her island youth writes to tell her that the island is inhabitable and is being repopulated by what she calls the “Colony.” When Lucie returns to visit, she soon develops serious misgivings about the colony and its leader, a former nun with an ambitious plan. As with Glaciers, Smith’s writing sparkles even in this dark story.


June 14

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty

Ramona Ausubel — Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty (Riverhead)

Ausubel made a big impression with her distinctive vision in her debut novel about the Holocaust,  No One is Here Except All of Us, and her sophomore collection of surreal stories, A Guide to Being Born (think Karen Russell). She returns with the story of a privileged family in the mid-1970s who are confronted with a massive financial setback. The parents go their separate ways and their three children hunker down and try to cope with their changed and parentless world.

The Girls

Emma Cline — The Girls (Random House)

Cline’s first novel is also generating a lot of talk. A shy 14-year-old girl becomes friends with an older, charismatic girl and her mysterious friends. They soon suck her into the secret world of a cult living in the nearby hills. The parallels to Charles Manson’s “family” are obvious in this dark coming of age tale set in the Northern California in the late 1960s.

Grace

Natashia Deon — Grace (Counterpoint)

Deon’s debuts is a complex portrait of slavery pre- and post-Emancipation Proclamation. Fifteen-year-old Naomi runs away from her Alabama plantation and ends up in a Georgia brothel, where she falls in love with a white man. The bulk of the story follows their child, Josey, who is separated from her mother and raised by a freed slave in the years following the Civil War; she negotiates a life of violence as a mixed-race slave, then as part of a group of freed women. Rebecca Solnit says, “People will compare this book to Twelve Years a SlaveCold Mountain, and Beloved, and those are fair comparisons for the kind of time and place here, and the evocation of the south 150 years ago. But reading it, I thought of murder ballads, those songs of melancholy and injustice.” Grace is a moving story about the bonds of mother and daughter in the most difficult of circumstances.

Barkskins

Annie Proulx — Barkskins (Scribner)

In a novel that seems like to occupy a parallel universe to Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, two young woodcutters (“barkskins”) land in 17th century New France hoping to create lives in the New World. Like the half-sisters in Gyasi’s book, their personalities, skills, and luck are diametrically opposed, with dramatically different results. Proulx depicts the paths of their family trees for the following 300 years with her inimitable style and insight.


June 21

The Mandibles

Lionel Shriver — The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 (Harper)

Shriver is widely admired for her compelling family dramas We Need to Talk About Kevin and Big Brother. Now she moves into speculative, dystopian fiction, a la Margaret Atwood, to probe the nature of family life when a global currency collapse wipes out the fortune they expected from their 97-year-old patriarch.

Vinegar Girl

Anne Tyler — Vinegar Girl (Hogarth Shakespeare)

Tyler’s modernized take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is the latest in a series of similar books published by Hogarth. Of course, modernizations of Shrew have been with us a long time, such as the musical Kiss Me Kate and the teen-oriented movie 10 Things I Hate About You. So one would think there was nothing left to do with this story of a difficult young woman who refuses to marry, complicating the marriage plans of her younger sister. Here, 29-year-old Kate Battista teaches pre-school and keeps house for her eccentric scientist father and takes care of Bunny, her younger sister. The plot thickens when Dr. Battista needs to find a way to keep his Russian research assistant in the country and looks to Kate for help.


June 28

The Trouble with Lexie

Jessica Anya Blau — The Trouble with Lexie (Harper Perennial)

The irrepressible Blau is back with another breezy yet biting tale of a young woman in various forms of trouble (as in her last book, the darkly comic The Wonder Bread Summer). Lexie James has overcome a troubled upbringing, earning a master’s degree, nabbing a plum job at a prestigious New England prep school, and becoming engaged to a terrific guy. As her wedding date nears, she is plagued by self-doubt. Does she really deserve a life like this? An alumnus of Ruxton Academy becomes the catalyst for Lexie’s journey of self-discovery. In The Trouble with Lexie, Blau offers up an entertaining combination of humorous and poignant moments in a fast-paced, fun read.