We are pleased to announce that debut novels by Amina Cain, Maisy Card, Hilary Leichter, Raven Leilani, Corey Sobel, Douglas Stuart, and C Pam Zhang have been shortlisted for our 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.
The seven finalists will read from their novels and celebrate their achievement with the wider literary community and its supporters at the Center’s First Novel Fête. The Fête will be held virtually and immediately precede The Center for Fiction’s Annual Awards Benefit on the evening of Thursday, December 3, 2020, which will also be held virtually. The winning novel will be announced during the Awards Benefit, and the author will receive a $15,000 prize. Each of the other finalists will receive $1,000.
“As a cultural institution, we’ve faced unprecedented challenges this year,” says Interim Executive Director Michael Roberts. “However, highlighting the remarkable work of emerging authors will always remain a defining feature of the Center for Fiction’s mission.”
The 2020 Short List:
- Indelicacy by Amina Cain (Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan)
- These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card (Simon & Schuster)
- Temporary by Hilary Leichter (Emily Books / Coffee House Press)
- Luster by Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan)
- The Redshirt by Corey Sobel (University Press of Kentucky)
- Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Grove Press / Grove Atlantic)
- How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang (Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House)
The First Novel Prize, first awarded in 2006, was created to honor the best debut fiction of the year. We are enormously grateful to a generous donor who has made it possible to increase this year’s winner prize from the previous amount of $10,000 in order to be more supportive of talented emerging writers. Stefan Merrill Block, Halle Butler, Jenny Offill, and De’Shawn Charles Winslow made up this year’s judging panel.
2020 Short List
By Amina Cain
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan
Reminiscent of a lost Victorian classic in miniature, yet taking equal inspiration from such modern authors as Jean Rhys, Octavia Butler, Clarice Lispector, and Jean Genet, Amina Cain’s Indelicacy is at once a ghost story without a ghost, a fable without a moral, and a down-to-earth investigation of the barriers faced by women in both life and literature. It is a novel about seeing, class, desire, anxiety, pleasure, friendship, and the battle to find one’s true calling.
These Ghosts Are Family
By Maisy Card
Published by Simon & Schuster
This “rich and layered story” (Kirkus Reviews) explores the ways each character wrestles with their ghosts and struggles to forge independent identities outside of the family and their trauma. A “rich, ambitious debut novel” (New York Times Book Review) that reveals the ways in which a Jamaican family forms and fractures over generations..
By Hilary Leichter
Published by Emily Books / Coffee House Press
In Temporary, a young woman’s workplace is the size of the world. She fills increasingly bizarre placements in search of steadiness, connection, and something, at last, to call her own. This riveting quest, at once hilarious and profound, will resonate with anyone who has ever done their best at work, even when the work is only temporary.
By Raven Leilani
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan
Irresistibly unruly and strikingly beautiful, razor-sharp and slyly comic, sexually charged and utterly absorbing, Raven Leilani’s Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of her life―her hunger, her anger―in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent, and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way..
By Corey Sobel
Published by University Press of Kentucky
Corey Sobel challenges tenacious stereotypes in this compelling debut novel, shedding new light on the hypermasculine world of American football. The Redshirt introduces Miles Furling, a young man who is convinced he was placed on earth to play football. Deep in the closet, he sees the sport as a means of gaining a permanent foothold in a culture that would otherwise reject him.
By Douglas Stuart
Published by Grove Press / Grove Atlantic
A stunning debut novel by a masterful writer telling the heartwrenching story of a young boy and his alcoholic mother whose love is only matched by her pride, Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings..
How Much of These Hills Is Gold
By C Pam Zhang
Published by Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House
Both epic and intimate, blending Chinese symbolism and reimagined history with fiercely original language and storytelling, How Much of These Hills Is Gold is a haunting adventure story, an unforgettable sibling story, and the announcement of a stunning new voice in literature. On a broad level, it explores race in an expanding country and the question of where immigrants are allowed to belong