Now that I am tracking more book awards than I did a couple years ago, I feel like there are so many that I can barely keep up with them all. Below are some debuts that have won prizes, or been shortlisted, in the US this spring. Next month, I will write about notable books from the UK and Australia. What I think is interesting about book prizes is that they often choose books that have been less commercially successful or take on unique topics.
Have you read any of the debuts below? Or read about them? I’d be curious to know what you think or know about the books.
The PEN/Robert W. Bingham shortlist is out and the winner will be announced on June 8th. This prize “honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work—a novel or collection of short stories—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.” Two of the books on the shortlist, Ruby, by Cynthia Bond and Redeployment, by Phil Klay have gotten a lot of attention this year. The other books on the shortlist take us into different worlds and countries:
The Dog, by Jack Livings, a collection of short stories set in contemporary China.
The UnAmericans, by Molly Antopol, another collection of short stories set in the US, the former Soviet Union and Israel.
Love Me Back, by Merritt Tierce, is a novel about a young woman who is a single mom and a waitress in a steakhouse. The book explores her self-destructive lifestyle. This book has been noted by reviewers for Tierce’s open and honest writing.
The LA Times Book Awards has the The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. The 2014 award went to Valeria Luiselli for Faces in the Crowd, a novel translated from Spanish and set in Mexico City, Harlem and Philadelphia. It tells the story of a writer/translator looking back on her life and an obscure Mexican poet. The book “plays with the idea of time and identity.” Seems like a unique and literary read.
The Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction is one of the Publishing Triangle Awards. It recognizes “outstanding first novels or story collections by LGBT authors.” This year’s award goes to For Today I am a Boy, by Kim Fu. This book, a coming of age story about a transgender boy, set in Canada, was also a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award.