Congratulations to Bro. Rion Amilcar Scott and Sisters Yaa Gyasi and Brit Bennett for making it to the Finalists level of the PEN literary award for Debut Fiction. It’s fantastic to witness three new voices from the African Diaspora being recognized for work that honors the breadth of the African American experience. These examples of literary genius are perfect representatives of the #BlackBooksMatter movement.
Most stereotypes are born out of ignorance. Within these three books, readers of all backgrounds are presented with the emotions and drama of an assortment of beautifully flawed African & African American characters. It’s here that we can, as a country, “Black,” “White,” whatever, can begin to confront our prejudices and ignorances by seeing the commonality between the similarly shared challenges we all face.
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The PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction award goes to author whose debut work—a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2016—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.
|Insurrections: Stories by Rion Amilcar Scott
Raw, edgy, and unrelenting yet infused with forgiveness, redemption, and humor, the stories in this collection explore characters suffering the quiet tragedies of everyday life and fighting for survival. In Insurrections, Rion Amilcar Scott’s lyrical prose authentically portrays individuals growing up and growing old in an African American community.Writing with a delivery and dialect that are intense and unapologetically current, Scott presents characters who dare to make their own choices-choices of kindness or cruelty-in the depths of darkness and hopelessness. Although Cross River’s residents may be halted or deterred in their search for fulfillment, their spirits remain resilient-always evolving and constantly moving.
|The Mothers by Brit Bennett
A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community and the things that ultimately haunt us most. Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret. “All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”
In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself.
|Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.”