In a time when the conversation around immigration and identity seems more intense and consequential than ever, we are proud to continue to celebrate the stories of immigrants through our Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, now in its third year. The annual Prize, alternating between fiction and nonfiction, awards $10,000 and publication to an extraordinary debut work by a first-generation writer that addresses identity in a global age.
This year’s judges, Tea Obreht and Ilan Stavans, were blown away by the astounding diversity and talent displayed in the submissions received for this year's prize in fiction. After much consideration, we are thrilled to announce the six finalists!
Here is the shortlist, presented by the judges:
The City of Good Death, by Priyanka A. Champaneri
The City of Good Death is a chamber piece about Pramesh, the manager of a hostel in India’s holy city of Benares who caters to pilgrims who come to die a good death. The contrasts between Western and Hindu ways of dying are magnificently explored.
He Carried Me Out to Sea, by Christina Cooke
He Carried Me Out to Sea is a powerful exploration of itinerant life in and away from Jamaica. Akúa, the protagonist, discovers how difficult it is to find a place of one’s own, not only in faraway lands but also in one’s own home.
The Importance of Floating, by Linda Rui Feng
The Importance of Floating is a vivid, profound, empathetic meditation on family ties put to test in an immigrant journey from China following the Cultural Revolution to an America that is at once selfish and welcoming.
Quint, by Dionne Irving
Quint is a dazzling family epic that twists and turns and continually astonishes, challenging the novel form to trace the lives of the star-crossed Phalene quintuplets from their birth in the Canadian town of Témiscaming to their far-flung respective fates.
Simulacra, by Manini Nayar
Spanning different continents and communities, this collection of precise and effervescent short stories celebrates the absurd and the everyday, and delights with its humor, passion, and pathos.
- What’s Wrong With You, K?, by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
Set in Bangalore, this poignant and richly detailed coming of age story follows twelve-year-old Karthik as he struggles through a challenging, often hilarious year of schooling and family life.
Read on for more information about these emerging writers, and stay tuned for the announcement of the winner this September.
Congratulations to the finalists and a sincere thank you to everyone who submitted!
Téa Obreht, Ilan Stavans, and the Restless Books team
ABOUT THE 2018 FICTION FINALISTS
Priyanka A. Champaneri
Born to Indian parents hailing from the state of Gujarat, Priyanka A. Champaneri was raised in Virginia, reading fairy tales and richly-illustrated volumes of Hindu religious myths. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University, and multiple writing fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
Christina Cooke is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and is currently an adjunct creative writing professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. An immigrant from Jamaica herself, her writing is inspired by a series of daydreams and questions about experiences similar to her own.
Linda Rui Feng
Linda Rui Feng was born in Shanghai and educated in San Francisco, Boston, and New York. Since then, she has cultivated an interest in displaced beings, especially in her writing, which has been supported by a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a Toronto Arts Council Grant, and most recently, a residency at Willapa Bay AiR.
Dionne Irving's heritage is a mish mash of different cultures including Chinese (by way of Hong Kong), Scottish, Indian, and Jamaican. Her experience of migration and cultural hybridity informs her writing, which has appeared in The Missouri Review, Boulevard Magazine, The Crab Orchard Review, LitHub, and other places.
Manini Nayar grew up in post-Independent India, reading British newspapers, sipping Darjeeling tea, performing in Hindi street-theatre, and wearing saris and bellbottoms. Upon coming to America as a college student, she encountered a different set of racial and regional differences—all of which enlightens her writing. She is currently an associate professor at Penn State for English and Women’s Studies, and has been published in The Alaska Quarterly Review, Chelsea, London Magazine, The Malahat Review, and Parnassus: Poetry in Review, among others.
After receiving a Bachelors of Engineering in Bangalore, India, Siddhartha Vaidyanathan went on to pursue a career in journalism. While working on his global cricket magazine for ESPN, he writes, often inspired by an immigrant sense of saudade for the times of youth.