Columbia Alumni on the First Novel Prize Longlist; Both Authors Shortlisted
Update: October 5, 2022
The Center for Fiction recently announced the shortlist for the 2022 First Novel Prize, naming alumnae Daphne Palasi Andreades ’19 and Jessamine Chan ’12 among the finalists. Brown Girls (Penguin/Random House, 2022), by Andreades, and The School for Good Mothers (Simon & Schuster, 2022) are two of the seven titles selected from a longlist of twenty-four novels by this year’s judges: Matt Bell, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Megha Majumdar, Rebecca Makkai, and Chigozie Obioma. Each of these shortlisted authors receives an award of $1000.
“I'm overjoyed that my debut book, a novel I poured my heart into writing, was shortlisted for the First Novel Prize,” Andreades said. “It's a huge honor, especially because the judges are authors whose work I truly admire. Completing and publishing my first book in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, was not easy. But creating art, and writing Brown Girls, was the space where I could express all that I was feeling and thinking during this time: my pain and grief, as well as my desire to make something beautiful from these circumstances. I hope that my book continues to reach readers. I look forward to the award ceremony in December, and celebrating with the other finalists!”
The winner, which will be selected by the same panel of judges, will be announced on Tuesday, December 6, 2022, at The Center for Fiction Annual Awards Benefit. This author will receive a further prize of $15,000. Prior to that announcement, the Center for Fiction will honor all of the shortlisted authors at the First Novel Fête on Friday, December 2, 2022.
Original: September 27, 2022
Alumni Daphne Palasi Andreades ’19 and Jessamine Chan ’12 are both recognized on the longlist for the 2022 First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction. First awarded in 2006, this prize was created to honor the best debut fiction of the year. The winner will receive a $15,000 prize and shortlisted authors, which will be announced later this fall, will receive $1,000 each. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 6, 2022 at The Center for Fiction Annual Awards Benefit.
This year, the longlist titles were selected from over 140 books nominated by 96 volunteer readers selected from The Center’s diverse community of writers, booksellers, librarians, members, and staff. A panel consisting of five distinguished authors (soon to be announced) will select the shortlist and name the winner.
Brown Girls, by Andreades, is the raucous, vibrant story of a gaggle of girls growing up in Queens. Told in a collective voice, the novel follows these irrepressible girls as they grow and change, as they burst out into the world–yet always return home to Queens, and to each other. Andreades initially explored the concept for this novel in a short story, written during her time at Columbia, which won the Kenyon Review Short Fiction Prize and went on to be awarded an O’Henry Prize. In a conversation with The Rumpus, Andreades says, “I started working on this piece in my second year and found that even after my workshop, I just kept writing more pages. I kept thinking about this ‘we’ voice, and I kept thinking about the world of Queens. Very organically the piece started growing longer and longer.”
The novel received exceptional recognition and was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice. The Times says, “Andreades’s descriptive writing is glorious, with a confidence one might expect from a veteran novelist…While there is much that many brown girls will relate to—including experiences that feel stolen straight from my memories—Andreades succeeds in making the stories feel specific beyond a singular experience…With their breadth, depth and enormous richness, I found myself wanting to savor these raw stories on a large, overflowing plate.”
Andreades will discuss Brown Girls at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College as part of their “Off the Page” interview series. You can stream the event for free on October 18.
The School for Good Mothers, by Chan, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a Today Show “Read with Jenna” Book Club Pick. Barack Obama recognized the novel on his Summer 2022 Reading List. Chan’s novel follows Frida, a mother who is trying to do her best in unfortunate circumstances. Things go from bad to worse as a Big Brother-type organization swoops down on her, wielding oppressive power and challenging her competence as a mother. In this excerpt from the novel, Frida receives a terrifying call, setting into motion the events which threaten to derail her entire life.
In an interview with Lit Hub, Chan says, “this was the first project where I felt like I was writing about society and I was writing about something that I wanted people to pay attention to.” She goes on to discuss the unexpected ways in which having her own child, midway through her work on the novel, contributed to several changes in how she wrote about motherhood. She states, “I didn’t know very basic things like getting a child out the door in the morning where there’s gauntlets of emotion and that everyone would have high opera-level feelings in those 35 minutes of getting out the door…The book gave me an outlet for where those thornier feelings could go.”
The School for Good Mothers was selected by Vogue as one of the “best books of the year so far.” In their review, they say the novel "picks up the mantel [sic] of writers like Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro, with their skin-crawling themes of surveillance, control, and technology; but it also stands on its own as a remarkable, propulsive novel.”