We are pleased to announce the shortlist for The Center for Fiction 2022 First Novel Prize. These seven titles were selected from the longlist featuring twenty-four debut novels with U.S. publication dates between January 1, 2022, and December 31, 2022. This year’s judges are Matt Bell, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Megha Majumdar, Rebecca Makkai, and Chigozie Obioma.
We congratulate the shortlisted authors, listed alphabetically by last name below.
- Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades (Penguin Random House / Random House)
- The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan (Simon & Schuster)
- NSFW by Isabel Kaplan (Macmillan / Henry Holt and Company)
- If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga (Graywolf Press)
- Little Rabbit by Alyssa Songsiridej (Bloomsbury Publishing)
- Big Girl by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan (W. W. Norton & Company / Liveright)
- The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara (W. W. Norton & Company)
The First Novel Prize, first awarded in 2006, was created to honor the best debut fiction of the year. The winner receives a $15,000 prize and each of the other shortlisted authors receives $1,000. The shortlisted authors will be celebrated at the First Novel Fête on Friday, December 2, 2022 and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 6, 2022 at The Center for Fiction Annual Awards Benefit.
By Daphne Palasi Andreades
Published by Penguin Random House / Random House
This tenderly observed, fiercely poetic love letter to a modern generation of brown girls follows a group of friends in Queens, New York as they attempt to reconcile their immigrant backgrounds with the American culture in which they come of age. Their conflicting desires of ambition and loyalty, freedom and commitment, adventure and stability risk dividing them in this striking exploration of female friendship told in a chorus of unforgettable voices.
The School for Good Mothers
By Jessamine Chan
Published by Simon & Schuster
One lapse in judgment lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance, in this harrowing yet darkly witty story about the expectations of perfection in motherhood. The mother’s quest to prove her devotion to her daughter exemplifies the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another..
By Isabel Kaplan
Published by Macmillan / Henry Holt and Company
In this story about the gray area between empowerment and complicity, a young woman struggles with how much she is willing to compromise her feminist values as she navigates around sexism, harassment, and assault while building a career for herself in Hollywood. Her toxic relationship with her mother, a renowned feminist attorney, whose own morals have been diluted from a lifetime of success in a male-dominated industry, both helps and harms her ambition as the personal and professional come to a head.
If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English
By Noor Naga
Published by Graywolf Press
In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, an Egyptian American daughter of immigrants nostalgic for the country she’s never lived in falls in love with a man she meets in Cairo who was a photographer of the revolution, but is now addicted to cocaine and living in a shack. When their relationship takes a violent turn, the fallout exposes the gaps in American identity politics and reexamines the faces of empire..
By Alyssa Songsiridej
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
A queer woman in the early stages of her writing career meets an older renowned male choreographer at a residency and begins a submissive relationship with him that confounds her social circle. The complicated sexual politics of their love story test the boundaries of lust, punishment, agency, and artistic drive in this darkly sensual take on a coming-of-age novel.
By Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
Published by W. W. Norton & Company / Liveright
An eight-year-old girl in the rapidly gentrifying Harlem of the 1990s struggles to suppress her insatiable longing in the face of her mother’s conscription into diet culture, pressures to fit into a narrow definition of femininity, and her outsider status in a predominantly white Upper East Side prep school. When tensions at home culminate in a family tragedy, she is forced to finally face the source of her hunger on her own terms..
The Immortal King Rao
By Vauhini Vara
Published by W. W. Norton & Company
In a future in which the world is run by the Board of Corporations, a woman uses her access to her father’s memories to plead her case for a radical act of communion in the face of raging climate change. As she relays the story of her father’s life from growing up on a South Indian coconut plantation to changing the world with his wife in the United States, the novel examines how we arrived at the age of technological capitalism and where our actions might take us next.
About the Shortlisted Authors
Daphne Palasi Andreades
Daphne Palasi Andreades
Daphne Palasi Andreades was born and raised in Queens, New York. Her debut novel, Brown Girls, was selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice book, a finalist for the New American Voices Award, and was chosen as an Indie Next Pick by booksellers across the U.S. Internationally, Brown Girls is now available in the U.K. and Commonwealth (India, Australia, South Africa, and more), and is forthcoming in France and Germany. Daphne is a proud graduate of New York City public schools and went on to earn her MFA in fiction at Columbia University. She lives in New York City and is now at work on her second novel.
Photo Credit: Jingyu Lin
Jessamine Chan’s short stories have appeared in Tin House and Epoch. A former reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, she holds an MFA from Columbia University. Her first novel, The School for Good Mothers, is a New York Times bestseller and a Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club pick. She lives in Chicago with her husband and daughter.
Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan
Isabel Kaplan graduated from Harvard and holds an MFA in creative writing from NYU. She is the author of the national bestselling young adult novel Hancock Park and was born and raised in Los Angeles.
Photo Credit: Annabel Graham
Alyssa Songsiridej is an editor at Electric Literature. Her fiction has appeared in StoryQuarterly, the Indiana Review, the Offing, and Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, and has been supported by Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, the Ragdale Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, the VCCA and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Little Rabbit is her first novel. A National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree, she lives in Philadelphia.
Photo Credit: Jaypix Belmer
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Ph.D. is the author of the novel Big Girl, a 2022 most anticipated pick from Vulture, Ms, the Root, Goodreads and SheReads.com. Her previous books are The Poetics of Difference: Queer Feminist Forms in the African Diaspora, and the short story collection, Blue Talk and Love, winner of the Judith Markowitz Award for Fiction from Lambda Literary. She is Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University. A native of Harlem, she currently lives in Washington, DC.
Photo Credit: Kathryn Raines
Vauhini Vara has worked as a Wall Street Journal technology reporter and as the business editor for the New Yorker. From a Dalit background, she is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an O. Henry Prize winner. The Immortal King Rao is her first novel.
Photo Credit: Andrew Altschul