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 past National Book Award Winner, Finalist, or Longlister, or by an author previously recognized by the 5 Under 35 program. 5 Under 35 honorees are writers from around the world, under the age of 35, who have published their first and only book of fiction—either a short story collection or a novel—within the last five years.
“Since it was established in 2006, the 5 Under 35 program has identified writers whose debut titles suggest careers of great promise,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “These exceptional young writers have already made their mark on the literary world with their first published work of fiction, and it is our honor welcome them into the National Book Foundation family and celebrate their work for years to come.”
The 2023 5 Under 35 honorees have been recognized by the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection and the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. Their work has been supported by MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Tulsa Artist Fellowship, Rhode Island Writers Colony, Writing By Writers, Yaddo, and others. Honorees’ writing has appeared in the New York Times, Literary Hub, A Public Space, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Catapult, and more.
This year’s selections include three short story collections and two novels—collectively, works that consider immigration, colonization, generational trauma, belonging, and the American dream. Mateo Askaripour’s satirical novel, Black Buck, follows Darren, a 22-year-old fulfilled with his job as a Starbucks manager despite his mother wishing for him to reach his potential as a former high school valedictorian. After accepting an unexpected job offer from the CEO of a tech start-up, he becomes the only Black person in the company—a role that forces him to grapple with the pitfalls of ambition, class, and racism in corporate America. In A Calm and Normal Heart, Chelsea T. Hicks, a member of the Osage Nation, explores the Native experience through a collection of short stories that merge ancestral bonds, modern love, generational trauma, and the meaning of belonging for young Native people living in a country founded upon their erasure. Morgan Talty’s collection of interlinked short stories, Night of the Living Rez, traces the lives of friends and families in a Native community in Maine. The stories, all narrated by a single character, interrogate tradition, inherited traumas, and the addiction, health disparities, and economic insecurities that both inform their pasts and propel their futures. Jenny Xie’s novel, Holding Pattern, follows Kathleen as she moves back into her childhood home after experiencing a devastating breakup and dropping out of graduate school. In an attempt to rebuild her life, Kathleen starts a job at a tech start-up that specializes in cuddle therapy, as Xie meditates on intimacy, mother-daughter relationships, and the profound impact of physical touch. The Sorrows of Others by Ada Zhang chronicles the lives of characters based in China and the United States during the decades after the Chinese Cultural Revolution—from a newlywed couple striving to salvage their marriage as they assimilate to life in Arizona to a woman caring for the husband who abandoned her. This story collection wrestles with questions of identity, loss, and feeling like an outsider in a new country or even within your own family.
This year’s 5 Under 35 selectors are 2012 National Book Award Winner, and 1999 and 2001 National Book Award Finalist Louise Erdrich, 2021 National Book Award Finalist Robert Jones, Jr., 2022 National Book Award Finalist Jamil Jan Kochai, 2009 5 Under 35 honoree Karen Russell, and 2014 5 Under 35 honoree Kirstin Valdez Quade. Their decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors; deliberations are strictly confidential.
“We are grateful to this year’s selectors for reading widely and eagerly to recognize this cohort of five exceptional authors and their memorable debuts,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “It is a privilege to spotlight these exciting new voices in contemporary fiction, and we look forward to celebrating their talent.”
The honorees will be celebrated at the 5 Under 35 Ceremony in New York City on Thursday, May 25, 2023. For the first time, the event will be open to the public, and is presented in partnership with the Brooklyn Museum. The ceremony will be hosted by Wajahat Ali, public speaker, recovering attorney, and author of Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on Becoming American. Tickets are available for purchase at the Museum’s website.
“We are honored and delighted to spotlight these exciting voices in literature, and to partner with the National Book Foundation in our shared missions to support and celebrate artists early in their careers,” said Margo Cohen Ristorucci, Manager of Public Programs, Brooklyn Museum.
Previous honorees include Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Lesley Nneka Arimah, K-Ming Chang, Anelise Chen, Naima Coster, Danielle Evans, Yaa Gyasi, Isabella Hammad, Lydia Kiesling, Raven Leilani, Johannes Lichtman, Valeria Luiselli, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Karen Russell, Claire Vaye Watkins, Bryan Washington, Ashley Wurzbacher, Tiphanie Yanique, and C Pam Zhang, as well as National Book Award Longlisted authors Molly Antopol and Brit Bennett, National Book Award Finalists Akwaeke Emezi, Angela Flournoy, and Téa Obreht, 2014 National Book Award Winner Phil Klay, and 2020 National Book Award Winner Charles Yu.
The National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 program is sponsored by the Amazon Literary Partnership. Each honoree will receive a $1,000 prize.