Laila Lalami, Colson Whitehead among National Book Award fiction nominees

Author Laila Lalami
Laila Lalami’s novel, “The Other Americans,” is a family saga and mystery in the Mojave.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The Jim Crow South, the Southern California desert and a remote Russian city are a handful of the locations that manifest in the 10 titles on the longlist for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction.

Nominee and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead previously won a National Book Award for his 2016 novel, “The Underground Railroad.” Whitehead’s latest, “Nickel Boys,” depicts two boys at the end of the Jim Crow era trying to make their way through the Nickel Academy, based on the notorious Dozier school in Florida where unmarked student graves were discovered in 2014.

Laila Lalami, a recent Los Angeles Times Book Club author, is nominated for “The Other Americans,” a mystery set into motion by the hit-and-run death of a Moroccan American restaurant owner in the Mojave.

The longlist, selected from 397 submissions, includes five debut novels, including Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” which looks at Toby, a New York hepatologist bitter about his divorce despite the pleasures of online dating. In poet Ocean Vuong’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” the twentysomething son of a Vietnamese immigrant mother writes a letter to her, telling his view of family history, war and violence, his sexuality and other experiences growing up in Hartford, Conn.


In another debut, Julia Phillips’ ”Disappearing Earth,” the disappearance of three young women in a remote Russian city, Petropavlovsk, examines the role of violence in women’s lives.

The foundation will announce finalists Oct. 8 and winners at the private National Book Awards ceremony and benefit dinner Nov. 20 in New York City.

Here is the complete list:

Taffy Brodesser-Akner, “Fleishman Is in Trouble”

Random House / Penguin Random House

Susan Choi, “Trust Exercise

Henry Holt & Company / Macmillan Publishers

Kali Fajardo-Anstine, “Sabrina & Corina: Stories”

One World / Penguin Random House

Marlon James, “Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House

Laila Lalami, “The Other Americans”

Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House

Kimberly King Parsons, “Black Light: Stories

Vintage / Penguin Random House

Helen Phillips, “The Need”

Simon & Schuster

Julia Phillips, “Disappearing Earth”

Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House

Ocean Vuong, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”

Penguin Press / Penguin Random House

Colson Whitehead, “The Nickel Boys”

Doubleday / Penguin Random House

Earlier this week the National Book Foundation announced longlists for nonfiction, poetry, children’s books and translated literature.


More book news: Colson Whitehead, Laila Lalami among Kirkus Award finalists.