The 2023 New American Voices Award longlist is out, and three of the ten longlisted books are by African authors: Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, What Napoleon Could Not Do by DK Nnuro, andThe Middle Daughter by Chika Unigwe.
Founded in 2018, the New American Voices Award was created by Fall for the Book Festival and George Mason University’s Institute for Immigration Research. The prize recognizes recently published works as told by first-generation American immigrants.
All three books are fascinating reads. Chain-Gang All-Stars is Adjei-Brenyah’s debut novel and details a dystopian world where prisoners fight to the death in a gladiator/hunger-game-esque competitions. It examines racism in relation to the prevalence of prisons in America societies. What Napoleon Could Not Do is the story about a Ghanaian man and his struggles to relocate to the US. The Middle Daughter is the story of a woman who plots her escape after being abducted by her husband.
This year’s judges include authors Chinelo Okparanta, born and raised in Nigeria, Cleyvis Natera, born in the Dominican Republic, and Sofia Ali-Khan, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants. They remarked of the longlist, nothing the range and relevance of the issues explored in the books:
These ten books address both contemporary and historical issues, delving deeply into the complexities of what it means to be a person or a community in transit, possibly displaced, or establishing a new home across this vast land. We’d like to offer our heartfelt congratulations to the authors of each of these ten books for so bravely enriching the field of new American voices.
Three finalists will be announced later this summer. The finalists and judges will appear at the Fall for the Book festival in October 2023 to read and discuss their work. The winning writer will receive $5,000 and the two finalists will receive $1,000 each.
The strong presence of African books on the list reflects the expanding influence of African writing in the diaspora. We are truly proud of the longlisted authors. Congrats and good luck to them!