Earlier today, the New York Public Library announced the five finalists for its nineteenth annual Young Lions Fiction Award.
Established in 2001, the award is a $10,000 prize given each spring to a writer age 35 or younger for a novel or a collection of short stories. Each year, five young fiction writers are selected as finalists by a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians. A panel of judges then selects the winner.
Founded by Ethan Hawke, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, Rick Moody, and Hannah McFarland, the Young Lions Award “recognizes the work of young authors and celebrates their accomplishments publicly, making a difference in their lives as they continue to build their careers.”
Previous winners include Lesley Nneka Arimah, Karen Russell, Colson Whitehead, and Mark Z. Danielewski.
The winner will be announced at a ceremony on June 13th.
Congratulations to all of the finalists!
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
“The novel is based in many of the realities of the writer’s life, but the prose is infused with imaginative lyricism and tone. In the end, this coming-of-age novel also has one foot on the other side, held between the open gates—a young woman of many nations and many souls. The journey undertaken in the novel is swirling and vivid, vicious and painful, and rendered by Emezi in shards as sharp and glittering as those with which Ada cuts her forearms and thighs, in blood offering to Asughara … Emezi’s lyrical writing, her alliterative and symmetrical prose, explores the deep questions of otherness, of a single heart and soul hovering between, the gates open, fighting for peace.”
-Susan Straight (The Los Angeles Times)
The Third Hotel by Laura Van Den Berg
“Strange, unsettling, and profound from start to finish, The Third Hotel is a book teeming with the kind of chaos that can only emanate from the mind. It could be fairly described as a meditation on grief, or marriage, or travel; fresh insights on each materialize regularly, at enviable levels of nuance … Laura van den Berg channels genre masters like Hitchcock and such evocative literary works as, particularly, Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo. She gets under your skin and hits bone. Hers is a terror tale as mercurial as life, veering between the grisly and the gentle … An award-winning writer of short fiction, van den Berg is a storyteller of astonishing detail. Her descriptions—whether concise or elongated—simply demand attention … Van den Berg can be heavy-handed with the parallels she draws, the big ideas she’s confronting, but it’s all in service of this masterpiece of life and afterlife.”
-David Canfield (Entertainment Weekly)
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
“In Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has written a powerful and important and strange and beautiful collection of stories meant to be read right now … Friday Black is an unbelievable debut, one that announces a new and necessary American voice. This is a dystopian story collection as full of violence as it is of heart. To achieve such an honest pairing of gore with tenderness is no small feat … In Friday Black, the dystopian future Adjei-Brenyah depicts—like all great dystopian fiction—is bleakly futuristic only on its surface. At its center, each story—sharp as a knife—points to right now.”
-Tommy Orange (The New York Times Book Review)
Severance by Ling Ma
“Ling Ma’s shocking and ferocious novel, Severance, is a play on the ‘Why I left New York’ theme, but it’s one you’ll actually want to read … a fierce debut from a writer with seemingly boundless imagination … Severance goes back and forth in time, contrasting Candace’s tedious office job with her travels across post-apocalyptic America. It’s a technique Ma uses to great effect—it’s jarring in a great way, making the horror of her new circumstances all the more intense … while Severance works beautifully as a horror novel, there’s much more to it than that. It’s a wicked satire of consumerism and work culture … Severance is the kind of satire that induces winces rather than laughs, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining … [a] a stunning, audacious book with a fresh take.”
-Michael Schaub (NPR)
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso
“Drnaso’s simple, rigid drawings capture the bleak blankness of much contemporary life, anomie hovering over almost every interaction, both real and virtual. His muffled colors build the texture of a world bombarded with distraction yet void of connection, and his careful use of boxes and frames conveys the stunning lack of freedom the supposedly free space of the internet constructs, a dim and inert prison of both the body and the spirit … Drnaso’s book leaves the audience holding its breath, hoping his flawed but sympathetic characters will find their way from lies to truth.”
-Kathleen Rooney (The Chicago Tribune)