The National Book Foundation has unveiled its annual 5 Under 35 honorees, recognizing a group of young authors who have published a debut work of fiction of extraordinary promise — a novel or short story collection — in the last year. And this year, they're all women.
The 2017 honorees are Lesley Nneka Arimah, Halle Butler, Zinzi Clemmons, Leopoldine Core and Weike Wang. Each author will receive a $1,000 cash prize.
Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, told the Cut that she was pleased with this year's honorees, who were chosen by authors who have won or been a finalist for a National Book Award, or who were themselves previously selected as a 5 Under 35 author.
"At a moment in which we are having the necessary conversations surrounding the underrepresentation of female voices, it's a thrill to see this list of tremendous women chosen organically by our selectors," Lucas said. "These writers and their work represent an incredibly bright future for the world of literary fiction."
The honored books include three novels, Butler's "Jillian," Wang's "Chemistry" and Clemmons' "What We Lose," and two short story collections, Arimah's "What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky" and Core's "When Watched."
"Jillian" was published by the Chicago-based indie press Curbside Splendor. The other four were published by major publishers: Riverhead, Knopf, Penguin Books and Viking (all are imprints of Penguin Random House).
It continues to be a good year for female authors of fiction in literary honors. Earlier this month, the National Book Foundation unveiled its longlist for the fiction National Book Award, with women taking eight of the 10 spots.
This is the first year since 2013 that all 5 Under 35 honorees are women.
Butler told the Cut that in the last few years, she's seen her taste in books move from those written mostly by men to the opposite.
"Now, I almost exclusively read fiction by women, and it's not all contemporary," she said. "I think there's a revisiting of a lot of overlooked women writers like Lucia Berlin. It wasn't anything conscious, so it must be atmospheric and it must be coming from things like this — some kind of sea change."