2017 National Book Award Longlist, Fiction

Daniel Alarcón

The King Is Always Above the People: Stories, by Daniel Alarcón Daniel Alarcón
The King Is Always Above the People: Stories
(Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House)

ISBN: 9781594631726

National Book Foundation: Why did you write this book?
Daniel Alarcón: I love stories, and after two novels it was time to go back to the short form. Stories come one at a time, but once you have a certain number you can go back and see, sometimes all too clearly, what your obsessions are, how they manifest in your work. In this case, the stories are about power, migration, and people on the outside looking in.
Foundation: What’s your favorite bookstore or library?
Alarcón: There are so many, but I'll pick a special one from Oakland, California—Walden Pond Books on Grand Avenue. From 2004-2007 I must have gone there three times a week. It has a great mix of new and used, always eclectic, full of unexpected treasures. That's what I love most about bookstores -- stumbling upon a book you've never heard of, that is at the same time exactly what you were looking for. Walden Pond gave me so many in those moments.


Migration. Betrayal. Family secrets. Doomed love. Uncertain futures. In Daniel Alarcón’s hands, these are transformed into deeply human stories with high stakes.

In "The Thousands," people are on the move and forging new paths; hope and heartbreak abound. A man deals with the fallout of his blind relatives' mysterious deaths and his father's mental breakdown and incarceration in "The Bridge." A gang member discovers a way to forgiveness and redemption through the haze of violence and trauma in “The Ballad of Rocky Rontal.” And in the tour de force novella, "The Auroras," a man severs himself from his old life and seeks to make a new one in a new city, only to find himself seduced and controlled by a powerful woman.

Richly drawn, full of unforgettable characters, The King is Always Above the People reveals experiences both unsettling and unknown, and yet eerily familiar in this new world.

About the Author

Daniel Alarcón is the author of At Night We Walk in Circles, which was a finalist for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award, as well as the story collection War by Candlelight, the novel Lost City Radio, and the graphic novel City of Clowns. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Granta, n+1, and Harper’s, and he was named one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40.” He is executive producer of Radio Ambulante, distributed by NPR, and is an assistant professor of broadcast journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism.


- TWITTER: @DanielGAlarcon

(Photo credit: Hugo Rojo)


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