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Luster by Raven Leilani

Raven Leilani Wins the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize


Raven Leilani is the 2020 winner of The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize for Luster (Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan). De’Shawn Charles Winslow presented the award to Leilani on Thursday, December 3rd at our Annual Awards Benefit.

First awarded in 2006, the First Novel Prize recognizes the year’s best debut novel as selected by a panel of distinguished American writers and carries with it an award of $15,000. Stefan Merrill Block, Halle Butler, Jenny Offill, and De’Shawn Charles Winslow made up this year’s judging panel.

"This is really special to me, so I want to take a moment to thank everyone who helped make this happen. First, I want to thank the selection committee and The Center for Fiction for choosing my novel for this award. The Center for Fiction was actually the last place I did a public reading with a room full of people before the pandemic hit, so this really means a lot to me.

Thank you to my cohort, my mentors at my MFA at NYU. Thank you for challenging me and pushing me while I was writing this book. Thank you to my family for being who you are and for making me feel like art was a worthwhile pursuit. Thank you to my partner Evan for reading all of my early drafts and for standing by me as I got this work out. Thank you to Trident and to FSG for ushering this book into the world with incredible enthusiasm, even in the midst of this unprecedented climate. You really made this first time around so special and so wonderful.

I want to say thank you to the librarians and the booksellers and the indie bookstores who have advocated fiercely for this book and made this experience what it is. Thank you to everyone who came to this book with generosity: it has really meant everything."

About Luster

Irresistibly unruly and strikingly beautiful, razor-sharp and slyly comic, sexually charged and utterly absorbing, 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 depiction of how hard it is to believe in your own talent, and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.