The National Book Foundation, the organization that presents the National Book Awards, announced its 5 under 35 honorees this morning. It honors fiction writers under the age of 35 who have published their first books; the prize helps bring attention to beginning writers struggling to stand out in a competitive literary landscape.
The five writers are selected by accomplished writers, all previous winners of the award; this year's selectors were ZZ Packer, Phil Klay, Dinaw Mengestu, Paul Yoon and Fiona Maazel.
The authors they selected were:
Phil Klay: Megan Kruse, author of "Call Me Home" (Hawthorne Books)
Fiona Maazel: Tracy O'Neill, author of "The Hopeful" (Ig Publishing)
Dinaw Mengestu: Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, author of "Fra Keeler" (Dorothy, a publishing project)
ZZ Packer: Angela Flournoy, author of "The Turner House" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Paul Yoon: Colin Barrett, author of "Young Skins" (Black Cat / Grove Atlantic)
Of note is the strong presence of independent publishers on the list. The St. Louis-based Dorothy, a Publishing Project, now 5 years old, publishes mainly books by women and limits itself to just two books a year. Hawthorne Books, based in Portland, Ore., has been publishing books since 2001 that take "innovative and varied approaches to the relationships between essay, memoir, and narrative." And part of indie Ig Publishing's mission is to publish fiction by "writers who have been overlooked by the mainstream publishing establishment." Their presence here shows that some of America's best new fiction may be finding its first foothold outside of the established New York publishing houses.
Each 5 under 35 winner will get $1,000, and be honored at a celebration in New York. This year's host is actor and "Reading Rainbow" creator LeVar Burton.