September 13, 2013

Women dominate the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 list


Yesterday, the National Book Foundation announced this year’s 5 under 35 honorees.

In the immortal words of Annie Lennox, the sisters are doin’ it for themselves. For the first time in its eight year history, women have swept the 2013 National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 list. While this is a first, female writers have been well represented in earlier years, with previous authors including Danielle Evans, Tea Obreht, Karen Russell, and ZZ Packer among others. The inaugural list included two women, but by 2011, 4 of the 5 authors were women. (Last year’s crop was as close to evenly split as possible, with 3 female and 2 male honorees.)

5 Under 35 authors are chosen by a panel of past National Book Award finalists and winners. The National Book Foundation’s website lists each author, and the author that selected them:

  • Molly AntopolThe UnAmericans, (W.W. Norton & Company, February 2014)
    Selected by Jesmyn Ward, National Book Award Winner in 2011 for Salvage the Bones
  • NoViolet BulawayoWe Need New Names, (Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown, 2013)
    Selected by Junot Díaz, National Book Award Finalist in 2012 for This is How You Lose Her
  • Amanda CoplinThe Orchardist, (Harper, 2012)
    Selected by Louise Erdrich, National Book Award Winner in 2012 for The Round House 
  • Daisy HildyardHunters in the Snow, (Jonathan Cape, Random House UK, 2013)
    Selected by Kevin Powers, National Book Award Finalist in 2012 for The Yellow Birds
  • Merritt TierceLove Me Back, (Doubleday, fall 2014Selected by Ben Fountain, National Book Award Finalist in 2012 for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
The November 18 party to honor the 5 Under 35 authors will kick off a week of National Book Award festivities. Fittingly, the party’s host (Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and “Portlandia” fame), panel moderator (Fiona Maazel, author of Last Last Chance and Woke Up Lonely), and even video interviewer (Julia Fierro, author of the upcoming novel Cutting Teeth) are all women.
After much debate about the Orange Prize (now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction), and the continued discussion about serious review attention, or the lack thereof, for books by women, there’s something refreshingly simple about this outcome: 5 respected authors, of both sexes, were asked to choose a young author, of either sex, that they wanted to see recognized, and the results speak for themselves.

Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.