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Namwali Serpell. Photo credit: Peg Korpinski.

Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift and Tope Folarin’s A Particular Kind of Black Man have been longlisted for the 2019 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, “awarded to the best debut novel of the year.” Both writers won the Caine Prize, in 2015 and 2013, respectively.

Serpell’s novel has been a massive hit with critics, with Salman Rushdie reviewing it for The New York Times Book Review. Released on 26 March 2019 by Penguin Random House imprint Hogarth, the 576-page The Old Drift is set on the Zambezi River and tells the story of three Zambian families—one black, one brown, one white—against the backdrop of history, science fiction, and fairytale. The multigenerational tale has been hailed as the Great Zambian Novel and drawn comparisons to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works of magical realism. Eyebrows were raised last week when the book was omitted from the Booker Prize longlist.

Forthcoming from Simon & Schuster on 6 August 2019, Folarin’s novel tells the story of Tunde Akinola and his struggle to make sense of his new life in America. It extends some of the key ideas in his Caine Prize-winning short story, “Miracle,” in order to address larger questions about the complexities of identity.

Tope Folarin. Photo by The Caine Prize.

Image from Tope Folarin’s Twitter.

Here is the full longlist of 27 novels:

  • The Affairs of the Falcóns by Melissa Rivero (Ecco)
  • American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (Random House)
  • Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Riverhead Books)
  • The Bobcat by Katherine Forbes Riley (Arcade)
  • The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall (Simon & Schuster)
  • Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Knopf)
  • The Falconer by Dana Czapnik (Atria Books)
  • Fall Back Down When I Die by Joe Wilkins (Little, Brown & Company)
  • The Farm by Joanne Ramos (Random House)
  • Goodnight Stranger by Miciah Bay Gault (Park Row)
  • The History of Living Forever by Jake Wolff (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow (Bloomsbury)
  • The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz (Ecco)
  • The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo (Doubleday)
  • The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (Hogarth)
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)
  • Oval by Elvia Wilk (Soft Skull Press)
  • The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora (Grove Press)
  • A Particular Kind of Black Man by Tope Folarin (Simon & Schuster)
  • A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar (Riverhead)
  • A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian (Algonquin)
  • Riots I Have Known by Ryan Chapman (Simon & Schuster)
  • Tears of the Trufflepig by Fernando A. Flores (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Tinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World/Random House)
  • We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World/Random House)

The shortlist will be announced in September and the winner in December at The Center for Fiction’s Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner.

Congratulations to Namwali Serpell and Tope Folarin.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he got an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies and English & Literary Studies. He taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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