The ten contenders for the National Book Award for Fiction
The National Book Foundation announced the Longlist for the 2022 National Book Award for Fiction. The Finalists in all five categories will be revealed on Tuesday, October 4.
Of the ten titles on the 2022 Fiction Longlist, eight are debut works of fiction. Only one writer on this year’s list has been previously honored by the National Book Awards: Gayl Jones was a Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction in 1998 for her novel, The Healing. The Longlisted authors have been recognized by numerous other awards, including the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) Award for Fiction, DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, Emmy Awards, PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel, Plimpton Prize for Fiction, Terry Southern Prize for Humor, and the Pushcart Prize. Among these ten writers are Hodder, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, National Endowment for the Arts, Stegner, and Asian American Writers’ Workshop fellows. In addition, the Longlisted authors’ writing has been featured in Best American Short Stories, Electric Literature, the Los Angeles Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Vogue, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere.
The Birdcatcher by Gayl Jones follows a writer Amanda as she joins her friend Catherine—a sculptor who is repeatedly institutionalized for attempting to murder her husband Ernest—in Ibiza. Jones’s novel, both wry and prescient, is a rumination on artmaking, relationships, and living in exile as a Black American. Another, far different trio is at the center of Fatimah Asghar’s debut novel, When We Were Sisters, which explores the interior lives of three orphaned Muslim American girls who are left to raise one another after their parents’ deaths, and to build homes both within and outside of each other. Home appears, again, in The Town of Babylon, when Andrés, a gay Latinx professor, returns to his suburban hometown to care for his parents. Alejandro Varela examines a community’s limited economic opportunities and a country’s deficient healthcare system in this debut novel about what it means to return to the place and people you once called home.
Two more Longlisted titles, both debuts, are also told from the perspective of immigrants and children of immigrants building a life for themselves and their families in the United States. Jonathan Escoffery’s collection of interlinked short stories, If I Survive You, traces the lives of a family from Jamaica living in Miami. The stories center on Trelawny, the younger of two brothers, and his family as they fight to survive against racism, Hurricane Andrew, and a recession in a collection that interrogates the realities of assimilation and the hollow promise of the American Dream. Set in Milwaukee at the height of the Great Recession, Sarah Thankam Mathews’s All This Could be Different is the story of Sneha, a young queer immigrant who creates a community for herself while grappling with the pressures of financially supporting her family in India, the threat of lay-offs and homelessness, and the oppressive demands of capitalism.
Jamil Jan Kochai explores characters of the Afghan diaspora living in the United States and in modern-day Afghanistan in his short story collection, The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories. From children and college students to doctors and government surveillance workers, these characters wrestle with the effects of war and forced displacement.
Set in Alaska, Leigh Newman’s debut short story collection, Nobody Gets Out Alive, centers girls and women navigating domestic troubles, broken family dynamics, and the exploitation of self and homeland in a male-dominated society. In the continental US, The Rabbit Hutch focuses on the residents of a fictionalized affordable housing complex in Vacca Vale, Indiana. Taking place over the course of one week and returning, most closely, to Blandine, an 18-year-old who recently aged out of the foster care system, Tess Gunty’s debut novel is a study on contemporary American life—of a failing city and country.
This year’s Longlist also includes two titles deeply rooted in the supernatural world. In Marytza K. Rubio’s genre-defying debut collection of short stories, the characters—which span from women to animals to the moon—negotiate with nature, invoking Mexican American myths, mystics, and magic. Maria, Maria & Other Stories stretches across the Americas, reimagines the boundaries of reality and fiction, and expands upon the spaces between life and death. Shutter by Ramona Emerson brings crime fiction to the Longlist with the story of Rita Todacheene, a forensic photographer in New Mexico whose crime scene photos have solved countless cases. Driven away from the Navajo reservation where she grew up because of her ability to communicate with ghosts, Rita finds herself the target of a dangerous drug cartel in this debut that is part paranormal horror and part coming-of-age story.
Publishers submitted a total of 463 books for the 2022 National Book Award for Fiction. The judges for Fiction are Ben Fountain (Chair), Brandon Hobson, Pam Houston, Dana Johnson, and Michelle Malonzo. Judges’ decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors and deliberations are strictly confidential. Winners in all categories will be announced live at the National Book Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, November 16.
2022 Longlist for the National Book Award for Fiction:
Fatimah Asghar, When We Were Sisters
One World / Penguin Random House
Ramona Emerson, Shutter
Soho Crime / Soho Press
Jonathan Escoffery, If I Survive You
MCD / Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers
Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch
Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House
Gayl Jones, The Birdcatcher
Jamil Jan Kochai, The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories
Viking Books / Penguin Random House
Sarah Thankam Mathews, All This Could Be Different
Viking Books / Penguin Random House
Leigh Newman, Nobody Gets Out Alive
Scribner / Simon & Schuster
Marytza K. Rubio, Maria, Maria & Other Stories
Liveright / W. W. Norton & Company
Alejandro Varela, The Town of Babylon
Astra House / Astra Publishing House