The National Book Foundation Announces 2020 5 Under 35 Honorees

September 2020



The National Book Foundation announced its annual 5 Under 35 honorees, a se­­lection of five fiction writers under the age of 35 whose debut work promises to leave a lasting impression on the literary landscape. Each honoree was selected by a National Book Award Winner, Finalist, or Longlisted author, or by an author previously recognized by the 5 Under 35 program.

“Since its inception in 2006, 5 Under 35 has highlighted exciting new voices with the goal of championing young authors at the start of their careers,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the National Book Foundation’s Board of Directors. “As we bring these authors into the fold, we are proud of this program’s continued tradition of uplifting unique and unforgettable debut work and introducing new readers to the next generation of ground-breaking authors.”

Throughout their vivid debuts, these five authors tackle family dynamics, identity, mythology, race, and the many meanings of discovery. For the first time in 5 Under 35 history, all of the honorees are women of color. The 2020 cohort has been longlisted by the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and the Booker Prize; and shortlisted for the Kirkus Prize for Fiction and the Lambda Literary Awards. Honorees’ writing has been published by the New York Times, The Cut, Granta, The Paris Review Daily, Kweli, The Yale Review, and more.

“We are so thankful for our expert selectors who read with enthusiasm and skilled discernment,” said Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “5 Under 35 continues to showcase outstanding craft and storytelling, and we are thrilled to welcome these five remarkable authors to the National Book Foundation family. We couldn’t be more honored to witness their limitless potential.”

This year’s 5 Under 35 selectors are 2019 National Book Award Winner Susan Choi, 2019 National Book Award Finalist Marlon James, 2018 National Book Award Longlister Tayari Jones, 2018 National Book Award Longlister Tommy Orange, and 2012 5 Under 35 honoree Justin Torres. Their decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors; deliberations are strictly confidential.

Previous Honorees include Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Brit Bennett, Anelise Chen, Yaa Gyasi, Danielle Evans, Isabella Hammad, Lydia Kiesling, Nam Le, Johannes Lichtman, Valeria Luiselli, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Karen Russell, Bryan Washington, Claire Vaye Watkins, Ashley Wurzbacher, and Tiphanie Yanique, as well as National Book Award Finalists Akwaeke Emezi, Angela Flournoy, and Téa Obreht, and 2014 National Book Award Winner Phil Klay.

This year, the 5 Under 35 Ceremony will be presented exclusively digitally on October 20, in partnership with the Miami Book Fair. The honorees each receive a $1,000 prize. 5 Under 35 is sponsored by the Amazon Literary Partnership.

The 2020 5 Under 35 Honorees are:

K-Ming Chang, Bestiary
One World / Penguin Random House
Selected by Justin Torres, 2012 5 Under 35 Honoree

Naima Coster, Halsey Street
Little A / Amazon Publishing
Selected by Tayari Jones, 2018 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction

Raven Leilani, Luster
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers
Selected by Susan Choi, 2019 National Book Award Winner for Fiction

Fatima Farheen Mirza, A Place for Us
SJP for Hogarth / Penguin Random House
Selected by Tommy Orange, 2018 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction

C Pam Zhang, How Much of These Hills Is Gold
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House
Selected by Marlon James, 2019 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction