In the States, the Young Lions Fiction Award Goes to Catherine Lacey

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The Young Lions Fiction Award jury says Catherine Lacey’s book ‘challenges us to interrogate what we see when it pertains to sex and gender.’

One of the lions at the New York Public Library. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Raghu Ramaswamy

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

Two Shortlisted Titles from Riverhead
While we have news from London today (June 18) about the Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award, another prize program—also for writers 35 and younger—the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award has announced a winner in New York City.

Catherine Lacey has won the prize for Pew (Macmillan / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020). Her book has drawn extensive prize attention from other quarters, too, including a shortlisting from Swansea University’s Dylan Thomas Prize in Wales; a longlisting from the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award; the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction; and the Joyce Carol Oates Prize.

The story tells the tale of a town’s reaction in the American South when a person is found sleeping on a church pew. The newcomer is genderless, racially indeterminate, seemingly mute—and nicknamed Pew.

The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award was founded by Ethan Hawke, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, Rick Moody, and Hannah McFarland. Its US$10,000 purse is made possible by an endowment that includes gifts from Hawke, Walsh, Gavin McFarland and Hannah, and Moody, as well as Russell Abrams, Nina Collins, Stephan Loewentheil, Andrea Olshan and Jennifer Rudolph Walsh.

This year’s prize cycle is the 21st, and its jurors were Hernan Diaz, Emma Straub, and Yahdon Israel.

The Young Lions Fiction Award—based in the young-professionals donor community of the New York Public Library—can go to either a novel or a short-story collection.

The 2021 Young Lions Fiction Shortlist

  • Meng Jin for Little Gods (HarperCollins / Custom House, 2021)
  • Catherine Lacey for Pew (Macmillan / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020)
  • Hilary Leichter for Temporary (Coffee House Press, 2020)
  • Brandon Taylor for Real Life (Penguin Random House / Riverhead, 2020)
  • C Pam Zhang for How Much of These Hills Is Gold (Penguin Random House / Riverhead, 2020)

Israel, speaking for the jury panel, is quoted, saying, “Just as Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man challenged us to interrogate who we see as it pertains to race, Catherine Lacey’s Pew challenges us to interrogate what we see when it pertains to sex and gender.

“Consistent in both works is their ingenuity in utilizing fiction to avert the question away from the observed to the observer.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here.

And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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