September 27, 2017
The National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” are all women
by Stephanie DeLuca
Every year, the National Book Foundation announces its selection of “5 Under 35,” a list of five young authors, each of whom has published a debut work of fiction over the last year deserving of special recognition. It helps launch new authors into the collective mind of the literary world, putting them on the radar of readers and critics alike. But this year, watchers have noticed something special: every author on the list is a woman.
As Michael Schaub reports in the LA Times, the writers making this year’s list are: Lesley Nneka Arimah, Halle Butler, Zinzi Clemmons, Leopoldine Core, and Weike Wang. Go ahead and add their books to your reading list: Butler’s Jillian, Wang’s Chemistry, Clemmons’s What We Lose, Arimah’s What It MeansWhen a Man Falls From the Sky, and Core’s When Watched.
Lisa Lucas, who took over as executive director of the National Book Foundation earlier this year, says of the list, “At a moment in which we are having the necessary conversations surrounding the underrepresentation of female voices, it’s a thrill to see this list of tremendous women chosen organically by our selectors.” Honorees are chosen by authors who have won or been a finalist for the National Book Award, or who were themselves previously selected as “5 Under 35” authors.
What’s even more exciting than the list being comprised of only women is its diversity: three of the five authors are women of color. The book world is not always known for its diversity, to say the least. (#WeNeedDiverseBooks) With the majority of major literary prizes (not to mention the freaking world) still dominated by white men, it’s uplifting to see authors of other genders and races receiving recognition. This list, comprised of young authors on the cusp of breaking out in the literary world, signifies the future of fiction, and it looks as if we are headed in the right direction.
Stephanie DeLuca is the director of publicity at Melville House.