National Book Foundation's New 5 Under 35 Honorees Are Writers To Watch

If you haven’t yet checked out these five debuts, consider this an invitation.

Looking for a fresh new voice in fiction? You’re in luck.

On Monday, the National Book Foundation announced its annual 5 Under 35 list, which honors five young debut fiction authors whose great early work marks them as writers to watch with anticipation throughout their careers.

This year’s list consists of five women whose debut novels and story collections dazzled the literary community, including Lesley Nneka Arimah and Leopoldine Core. 

The five writers were chosen for the list by previous National Book finalists, winners or 5 Under 35 honorees ― an annual reminder that this is a highly desirable club to get into. Since its institution in 2006, 5 Under 35 authors have numbered major talents such as Dinaw Mengestu, Karen Russell, Tiphanie Yanique and Téa Obreht among their ranks.

Zinzi Clemmons was selected by Angela Flournoy, author of the widely acclaimed novel The Turner House, a finalist for the National Book Award; Weike Wang made the list thanks to Sherman Alexie, a 2007 National Book Award winner for Young People’s Literature and undeniable literary icon.

While the honor signals interest in these authors’ future work, it also recognizes the brilliant work they’ve already published ― so if you haven’t yet checked out these five debuts, consider this an invitation.

Here are the 2017 National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honorees and their books:

Lesley Nneka Arimah, author of What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories 

(Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House) 

Selected by Chris Bachelder, 2016 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction

In this short story collection, Arimah delves into questions of family and womanhood, laying bare the unsettling corners of human need. The stories range from fables and speculative fiction to more realist portrayals of families of the Nigerian diaspora. 


Halle Butler, author of Jillian 

(Curbside Splendor) 

Selected by Lydia Millet, 2016 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction

Butler’s novel follows a disaffected, cynical narrator who becomes contemptuously obsessed with her more upbeat co-worker, the titular Jillian, as the other woman’s life begins to unravel.


Zinzi Clemmons, author of What We Lose 

(Viking / Penguin Random House) 

Selected by Angela Flournoy, 2015 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction and 5 Under 35 honoree

What We Lose takes readers through the agonizing months during which a young woman, Thandi, watches her mother die of breast cancer ― and her struggle to grieve afterward. Clemmons also examines the higher incidence of breast cancer deaths among black women, adding a sharper point to a universal story of loss.


Leopoldine Core, author of When Watched: Stories 

(Penguin Books / Penguin Random House) 

Selected by Karan Mahajan, 2016 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction

Core’s collection of short fiction has already racked up a number of awards and nominations, including a Whiting Award. Her stories, many set in New York, take the reader into uneventful moments in her characters’ lives, evoking a powerful sense of the human condition.


Weike Wang, author of Chemistry 

(Knopf / Penguin Random House) 

Selected by Sherman Alexie, 2007 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature

“Wang explores a young chemist’s reckoning with her own limits and possibilities in this capably crafted, thoughtful novel.”



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