On Wednesday (February 20), the Aspen Institute announced the five finalists shortlisted for their second-annual Aspen Words Literary Prize for Fiction. The yearly literary competition strives to emphasize “influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.”
The longlist for the 2019 Aspen Words Literary Prize — which included 11 novels,13 debuts, and five short story collections — has been narrowed to five titles: There There, by Tommy Orange; Friday Black, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah; An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones; Brother, by David Chariandy; and Gun Love, by Jennifer Clement.
This April, the Aspen Institute will unveil its winner in a ceremony taking place in New York City, in which the victor will also receive a $35,000 bonus prize.
Scroll down to learn more about this year’s Aspen Words Literary Prize finalists, below.
Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Friday Black illuminates contemporary issues such as violence, race, and injustice in America. This book tackles urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explores the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. (Amazon, $10.19)
There There, Tommy Orange
There There is a wondrous and shattering portrait of the urban Native American. Tommy Orange has written a stunning novel that grapples with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and profound spirituality, and with a plague of addiction, abuse, and suicide. (Amazon, $16.55)
Gun Love, Jennifer Clement
Pearl’s mother took her away from her family just weeks after she was born, and drove off to central Florida determined to begin a new life for herself and her daughter–in the parking lot next to a trailer park. Pearl grew up in the front seat of their ’94 Mercury, while her mother lived in the back. Despite their hardships, mother and daughter both adjusted to life, making friends with the residents of the trailers and creating a deep connection to each other. All around them, Florida is populated with gun owners–those hunting alligators for sport, those who want to protect their families, and those who create a sense of danger. (Amazon, $14.44)
Brother, David Chariandy
Brother addresses important current and politically charged themes, specifically police brutality toward African Americans. In Brother, Michael describes the events leading up to and the aftermath of the shooting of his brother Francis by the Canadian police. Brother also grapples with the responsibility that adult children have to their parents after growing up in poverty, as well as masculinity and the perception of homosexuality in the Black community. (Amazon, $9.47)
An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
An American Marriage grapples with issues of race, wrongful imprisonment, and mass incarceration—the culmination of research the author began at a fellowship at Harvard in 2011. It makes these issues personal, by giving them faces and emotions. (Amazon, $11.28)