National Book Foundation Names Its ‘5 under 35’ Debut Fiction Authors

In News by Porter Anderson

A diverse, all-female group of authors has been selected for the US’ National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35’ program, which honors authors of debut fiction.


By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Penguin Random Publishes Four of Five

The United States’ National Book Foundation has today (September 25) announced the honorees of its “5 Under 35” program, which spotlights fiction debuts by writers who are under age 35, and–in the words of the foundation–”promises to leave a lasting impression on the literary landscape.

The National Book Foundation is the organization that also confers the National Book Award and other signal honors in the US culture and marketplace. Its selections are followed with the interest that might be accorded the Governor General Awards in Canada and the many major prize programs of the UK.

Called honorees rather than “winners” by the foundation, the term reflects the fact that among its programs, this one is less a competition than an evaluation by a group of five accomplished figures who serve as selectors.

This is one of the programs sponsored by the Amazon Literary Partnership, a grants-making charity in literature administered by Neal Thompson. It’s interesting that, as it happens, four of the five authors and titles honored are Penguin Random House publications.

2017 National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honorees
  • Lesley Nneka Arimah, author of What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories (Riverhead / Penguin Random House). Selector: Chris Bachelder, 2016 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction
  • Halle Butler, author of Jillian (Curbside Splendor). Selector: Lydia Millet, 2016 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction
  • Zinzi Clemmons, author of What We Lose (Viking / Penguin Random House). Selector: Angela Flournoy, 2015 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction and 5 Under 35 honoree
  • Leopoldine Core, author of When Watched: Stories (Penguin Books / Penguin Random House). Selector: Karan Mahajan, 2016 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction
  • Weike Wang, author of Chemistry (Knopf / Penguin Random House). Selector: Sherman Alexie, 2007 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature

The 5 Under 35 honorees will be introduced to an invitation-only event on November 13 and each receives US$1,000.

Here is background information, as provided by National Book Foundation, on the five honorees.

Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work. She has been a finalist for a National Magazine Award and the Caine Prize, and is a winner of the African Commonwealth Short Story Prize and an O. Henry Award, among other honors. She lives in Minneapolis.

Halle Butler is a writer living in Chicago. She has co-written screenplays, including Neighborhood Food Drive (2017). Her first novel, Jillian, was called the “feel-bad book of the year” by the Chicago Tribune. She was recently included in Granta‘s 2017 list of Best of Young American Novelists. Her second novel, The New Me, is forthcoming from Penguin Books.

Zinzi Clemmons was raised in Philadelphia by a South African mother and an American father. She is a graduate of Brown and Columbia universities, and her writing has appeared in Zoetrope: All-StoryThe Paris Review DailyTransition, and elsewhere. She is a cofounder and former publisher of Apogee Journal and a contributing editor to Literary Hub. She has been in residence at the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and Dar al-Ma’mûn in Marrakech, Morocco. Clemmons lives in Los Angeles with her husband.

Leopoldine Core was born and raised in New York’s East Village and graduated from Hunter College. She is the author of the poetry collection Veronica Bench and the story collection When Watched, which was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Joyland, Open City, PEN AmericaApology Magazine and The Best American Short Stories, among others. She is the recipient of a Whiting Award for fiction, as well as fellowships from The Center for Fiction and The Fine Arts Work Center. She lives in New York.

Weike Wang is a graduate of Harvard University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry and her doctorate in public health. She received her MFA from Boston University. Her fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from Alaska Quarterly Review, Glimmer Train, The Journal, Ploughshares, Redivider, and SmokeLong Quarterly.

Image: National Book Foundation

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. Prior to that he was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, a channel at The Bookseller focused on digital publishing. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.