The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing
Now accepting nonfiction submissions
Winner receives $10,000 and publication by Restless Books
Submission Guidelines and Eligibility
The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing alternates yearly between accepting unpublished fiction and nonfiction submissions. Nonfiction submissions can take the form of a memoir, a collection of essays, or a book-length work of narrative nonfiction. Nonfiction submissions must consist of either a complete manuscript, or 100 sample pages plus a detailed proposal that includes a synopsis and an annotated table of contents. All submissions must be in English (translations welcome).
Candidates must be first-generation residents of the United States. “First-generation” can refer either to people born in another country who relocated to the U.S., or to American-born residents whose parents were born elsewhere.
Nonfiction candidates must not have previously published a book of nonfiction with a US publishing house.
Submissions will be accepted from September 1, 2016 until February 28, 2017.
The Prize Judges
Héctor Tobar is the Los Angeles-born author of four books, including the novels The Tattooed Soldier and The Barbarian Nurseries. His nonfiction Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of Thirty-Three Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that Set Them Free was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; it was also a New York Times bestseller and adapted into the film The 33. The Barbarian Nurseries was a New York Times Notable Book and won the California Book Award Gold Medal for fiction. Tobar's fiction has also appeared in Zyzzyva and in the 2016 edition of Best American Short Stories. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Irvine, and has taught writing and journalism at Pomona College and the University of Oregon. As a journalist, he was a foreign correspondent with the Los Angeles Times in Buenos Aires and Mexico City, and an op-ed writer for the New York Times and a contributor to the New Yorker. He is the son of Guatemalan immigrants.
Anjali Singh started her career in publishing in 1996 as a literary scout. Most recently Editorial Director at Other Press, she has also worked as an editor at Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Vintage Books. She is best known for having championed Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis after stumbling across it on a visit to Paris. She has always been drawn to the thrill of discovering new writers, and among the literary novelists whose careers she helped launch are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Samantha Hunt, and Saleem Haddad. Some of her editorial nonfiction projects include Baz Dreisinger's Incarceration Nations, Diana Abu-Jaber's The Language of Baklava, Kathy Rich's Dreaming in Hindi, Minal Hajratwala's Leaving India, Nuha al-Radi's Baghdad Diaries, and Igort's The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks. She is currently a literary agent at Ayesha Pande Literary, where she recently sold the YA graphic novel Jabs by Sherine Hamdy and Myra El-Mir, the coming-of-age story of a Muslim American girl, to Dial Books for Young Readers. She is a member of the International Committee of the Brooklyn Book Festival.
Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and the publisher of Restless Books. An award-winning essayist, translator, and cultural commentators, his best-selling titles include On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language, Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language, Love and Language, A Most Imperfect Union: A Contrarian History of the United States, El Iluminado, and Quixote: The Novel and the World.
Meet the Winner of the 2016 Prize for New Immigrant Writing — Fiction
Temporary People, by Deepak Unnikrishnan
In the United Arab Emirates, foreign nationals constitute over 80 percent of the population. Brought in to construct the towering monuments to wealth that punctuate the skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, this labor force works without the rights of citizenship, endures miserable living conditions, and is ultimately forced to leave the country. Until now, the humanitarian crisis of the so-called “guest workers” of the Gulf has barely been addressed in fiction. With his stunning, mind-altering debut novel Temporary People, Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs.
Combining the irrepressible linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and the satirical vision of George Saunders, Unnikrishnan presents twenty-eight linked stories that careen from construction workers who shapeshift into luggage and escape a labor camp, to a woman who stitches back together the bodies of those who’ve fallen from buildings in progress, to a man who grows ideal workers designed to live twelve years and then perish—until they don’t, and found a rebel community in the desert. With this polyphony, Unnikrishnan brilliantly maps a new, unruly global English. Giving substance and identity to the anonymous workers of the Gulf, he highlights the disturbing ways in which “progress” on a global scale is bound up with dehumanization.
About the Author
Deepak Unnikrishnan is a writer from Abu Dhabi who has lived in Teaneck, New Jersey, Brooklyn, New York, and Chicago, Illinois, where he now resides. He has studied and taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and presently teaches at New York University Abu Dhabi. Temporary People, his first book, was the inaugural winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.
Praise for Temporary People
“Deepak writes brilliant stories with a fresh, passionate energy. Every page feels as if it must have been written, as if the author had no choice. He writes about exile, immigration, deportation, security checks, rage, patience, about the homelessness of living in a foreign land, about historical events so strange that, under his hand, the events become tales, and he writes tales so precisely that they read like history. Important work. Work of the future. This man will not be stopped.”
—Deb Olin Unferth, author of Revolution
“Unnikrishnan’s debut novel shines a light on a little known world with compassion and keen insight. The Temporary People are invisible people—but Unnikrishnan brings them to us with compassion, intelligence, and heart. This is why novels matter.”
—Susan Hans O’Connor, Penguin Bookshop (Sewickley, PA)
“From the strange Kafka-esque scenarios to the wholly original language, this book is amazing on so many different levels. Unlike anything I've ever read, Temporary People is a powerful work of short stories about foreign nationals who populate the new economy in the United Arab Emirates. With inventive language and darkly satirical plot lines, Unnikrishnan provides an important view of relentless nature of a global economy and its brutal consequences for human lives. Prepare to be wowed by the immensely talented new voice.”
—Hilary Gustafson, Literati Bookstore (Ann Arbor, MI)
“Absolutely preposterous! As a debut, author Unnikrishnan shares stories of laborers, brought to the United Arab Emirates to do menial and everyday jobs. These people have no rights, no fallback if they have problems or health issues in that land. The laborers in Temporary People are sewn back together when they fall, are abandoned in the desert if they become inconvenient, and are even grown from seeds. As a collection of short stories, this is fantastical, imaginative, funny, and even more so, scary, powerful, and ferocious.”
—Becky Milner, Vintage Books (Vancouver WA)
“This is a fascinating, difficult, and chaotic read, but I couldn’t put it down. Its linked stories, myths, or allegories examine the condition of the guest worker subclass (but they are a silent majority) in the Gulf States where nary an Arab worker is to be found. It gets an A+ for language play and for illuminating a sore point of social injustice that any visitor to the United Arab Emirates would have seen, if not understood.”
—Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common (Ridgefield, CT)
“Please, if you care for my opinion, read this writing of Deepak Unnikrishnan and support him. He is a magnificent fellow with an intricate and beautiful mind; this work he does now, already wonderful and many times over worthy of publication, is but the smallest part of what he will do in time.”
—Jesse Ball, author of Silence Once Begun
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