Fall for the Book announces New American Voices Award finalists

Ishmael Beah’s “Little Family,” Vanessa Hua’s “Deceit and Other Possibilities” and Lysley Tenorio’s “The Son of Good Fortune” have been named finalists for the Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award (NAV). This award recognizes recently published works that illuminate the complexity of human experience as told by immigrants, whose work is historically underrepresented in writing and publishing.

A multidisciplinary research institute at George Mason University, the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) strives to refocus the immigration conversation by producing and disseminating valid, reliable, and objective multidisciplinary academic research related to immigrants and immigration to the United States.

“Stories help educate the public in a way statistics cannot,” said Diane Portnoy, an IIR board representative and the founder and CEO of the Immigrant Learning Center. “We are ushering in the next generation of great authors.”

This year’s book prize was judged by authors Susan Muaddi Darraj, Porochista Khakpour and Chika Unigwe. This is the third year the award will be given.

Beah’s “Little Family” was described by Darraj as a “compelling, intimate story of a group of children who form a bond under dire, dangerous conditions. Beah documents their emotional and physical struggles to survive in language that is gorgeous and lyrical." Beah’s first book, “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier,” was a New York Times bestseller and has been published in more than 40 languages.

Hua is a columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and winner of several honors and awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, an Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award. Khakpour praised Hua’s story collection, “Deceit and Other Possibilities,” saying Hua “delivers one of those once-in-a-lifetime debuts that feels both remarkably established and yet thrillingly new. A whole spectrum of East Asian experience, from immigrants to natives, idols to pastors, Stanford to Chinatown, is presented with a deeply generous mind and heart."

Unigwe described Tenorio’s novel, “The Son of Good Fortune,” as “compulsively readable. With its cast of unforgettable characters and delightful prose, Tenorio has delivered a near-perfect novel." Among many other honors, Tenorio is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Whiting Award, and his stories have appeared in the Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Ploughshares.

The winner will be announced this fall in a Fall for the Book virtual award ceremony and reading on Oct. 6, and all three finalists will join the judges to discuss their work.

Fall for the Book, Northern Virginia’s oldest and largest festival of literature and the arts, is virtual this year and runs September through November 2020. All events are free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of sponsors including Mason, the Fairfax County Public Library, the Fairfax Library Foundation, and the City of Fairfax. For more information, visit fallforthebook.org.