Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize for the best debut novel. This is truly delightful news.
Last December, she was shortlisted alongside Brit Bennett’s The Mothers, Emma Cline’s The Girls, Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes the Sun, Nathan Hill’s The Nix, and Max Porter’s Grief Is the Thing with Feathers. Notwithstanding this cast of strong contending novels, Gyasi distinguished herself by emerging the winner. This prize speaks to the uncommon beauty of her novel.
Homegoing was published by Penguin Random House last year. The bestselling novel is a multi-generational one. Set on two continents, the 320-page tour de force follows two half-sisters. Esi is sold into slavery. Effia is married off to a British slaver. The novel is essentially an account of their lives and the lives of their descendants across three hundred years in both Ghana and the US.
The reception for Homegoing has been loud. In his blurb, Ta-Nehisi Coates calls it “an inspiration.” Theskimm.com refers to it as “Roots meets Americanah.” The novel was shortlisted for the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, an award Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen had also been a finalist for in 2015.
Last December also, we announced its longlisting for PEN America’s Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Homegoing was named NPR’s Debut Novel of the Year and included in Time’s Top 10 Novels of 2016, The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2016, Oprah’s 10 Favorite Books of the Year and BuzzFeed’s Best Fiction Books of 2016 among other coveted lists.It has also garnered strong personal acclaim for Gyasi who is an alumna of the prestigious Iowa Workshop. She was selected for the US National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” list of debut novelists, an honor also claimed by NoViolet Bulawayo with We Need New Names in 2013. And this year, Forbes included her in its “30 Under 30” list.
We are so very happy for Gyasi as NBCC’s awards, reviewed by the group’s 1,000 leading critics, are up there in the first tier of literary prizes and are particularly revered. Some of you might recall that Adichie’s Americanah won the 2013 NBCC Award for Fiction, after Half of a Yellow Sun made the 2006 shortlist. Teju Cole’s Open City also got shortlisted for the 2011 fiction award, as was Ngugi’s In the House of the Interpreter for the 2012 autobiography award.
Gyasi will be receiving her award in a public presentation on March 17.
Huge congratulations to her!
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