Exploring the art of prose


National Book Award Winner for Fiction!

National Book Award Winner for Fiction!

Jesmyn Ward


Here’s all the news on last night’s award ceremonies.
Congrats to all the fiction writers, those on the long list and the finalists.
Here’s a quick look at each of the books on the long list.

Elliot Ackerman, Dark at the Crossing
Knopf / Penguin Random House

From Publishers Weekly:The second novel from Ackerman (Green on Blue) presents a stark and multifaceted portrait of the civil war in Syria. After working as an interpreter for a Special Forces unit during the Iraq War in exchange for five years in America and citizenship for him and his sister, Iraq-born Haris Abadi travels to the Turkish border with Syria in hopes of joining the fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s repressive regime…Ackerman’s station in Istanbul, where he has covered the Syrian civil war since 2013—plus five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan—aptly inform this timely and unsettling novel.”

Daniel Alarcón, The King is Always Above the People
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House

From Publishers Weekly: “Alarcón (At Night We Walk In Circles) delivers a superb collection of 10 stories about wanderers, lovers, and fractured families… Throughout the collection, Alarcón writes with a spellbinding voice and creates a striking cast of characters. Each narrative lands masterfully and memorably, showcasing Alarcón’s immense talent.”

Charmaine Craig, Miss Burma
Grove Press / Grove Atlantic

From Kirkus Reviews: “A couple’s love for each other and their children is tested through World War II and then through Burma’s long civil war. When Benny, a young Jewish Burmese man, meets a woman named Khin, he is instantly drawn to her though she’s part of a persecuted ethnic minority group, the Karen. WWII has just begun, and Burma’s future as part of the British empire is uncertain…Craig has written a captivating second novel that skillfully moves from moments of quiet intimacy and introspection to passages portraying the swift evolution of political events as multiple groups and nations vie for control of Burma’s future.”

Jennifer Egan, Manhattan Beach

From Kirkus Reviews: “After stretching the boundaries of fiction in myriad ways (including a short story written in Tweets), Pulitzer Prize winner Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad, 2010, etc.) does perhaps the only thing left that could surprise: she writes a thoroughly traditional novel. It shouldn’t really be surprising, since even Egan’s most experimental work has been rich in characters and firmly grounded in sharp observation of the society around them. Here, she brings those qualities to a portrait of New York City during the Depression and World War II.”

Lisa Ko, The Leavers
Algonquin Books

From Kirkus Reviews: “A Chinese woman who works in a New York nail salon doesn’t come home one day; her young son is raised by well-meaning strangers who cannot heal his broken heart. We meet Bronx fifth-grader Deming Guo on the day his mother disappears without a trace. From there, the story moves both forward and backward, intercutting between the narrative of his bumpy path to adulthood and his mother’s testimony… This timely novel depicts the heart- and spirit-breaking difficulties faced by illegal immigrants with meticulous specificity.”

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko
Grand Central Publishing/Hachette

From Publishers Weekly: “Lee’s (Free Food for Millionaires) latest novel is a sprawling and immersive historical work that tells the tale of one Korean family’s search for belonging, exploring questions of history, legacy, and identity across four generations.  In the Japanese-occupied Korea of the 1910s, young Sunja accidentally becomes pregnant, and a kind, tubercular pastor offers to marry her and act as the child’s father… Reckoning with one determined, wounded family’s place in history, Lee’s novel is an exquisite meditation on the generational nature of truly forging a home.”

Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties
Graywolf Press

From Publishers Weekly: “Machado creates eerie, inventive worlds shimmering with supernatural swerves in this engrossing debut collection. Her stories make strikingly feminist moves by combining elements of horror and speculative fiction with women’s everyday crises. Machado builds entire interior lives through sparse and minor details, turning even litanies of refrigerator contents and free-association on the coming of autumn into memorable meditations on identity and female disempowerment. Queerness permeates these tales, shaping the women and their problems, with a recurring focus on the inherent strangeness of female bodies.”

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, A Kind of Freedom
Counterpoint Press

From Publishers Weekly: “Set in Sexton’s native New Orleans, this emotionally wrenching, character-rich debut spans three generations in a city deeply impacted by segregation, economic inequality, and racial tensions. It begins with a 1940s romance between Evelyn, the eldest daughter in a relatively well-off Creole family, and Renard, the son of a janitor, whose dreams are bigger than his station in life can hold… In this fine debut, each generation comes with new possibilities and deferred dreams blossoming with the hope that this time, finally, those dreams may come to fruition.”

Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing
Scribner / Simon & Schuster

From Kirkus Reviews : “The terrible beauty of life along the nation’s lower margins is summoned in this bold, bright, and sharp-eyed road novel. In present-day Mississippi, citizens of all colors struggle much as their ancestors did against the persistence of poverty, the wages of sin, and the legacy of violence. Thirteen-year-old Jojo is a sensitive African-American boy living with his grandparents and his toddler sister, Kayla, somewhere along the Gulf Coast. Their mother, Leonie, is addicted to drugs and haunted by visions of her late brother, Given, a local football hero shot to death years before by a white youth offended at being bested in some supposedly friendly competition…As with the best and most meaningful American fiction these days, old truths are recast here in new realities rife with both peril and promise.”

Carol Zoref, Barren Island
New Issues Poetry & Prose

From Paul Harding, judge of the AWP Award for the Novel: “Barren Island is a wonderful synthesis of character and history. From the moment Marta Eisenstein Lane begins to tell us about her remarkable family’s lives on the rank, forsaken sand bar of Barren Shoal, rendering animal carcasses into glue, the author immerses us in a world most readers would never otherwise have known existed. As squalid and hardscrabble as these lives may be, they are also suffused with strange beauty and love by Marta’s solicitude and honesty. Barren Island is big-hearted, generous, and fascinating.”