The 2023 National Book Awards Longlist: Fiction

This week, The New Yorker announced the longlists for the 2023 National Book Awards. Earlier, we presented the lists for Young People’s Literature, Translated Literature, Poetry, and Nonfiction.

In “Chain-Gang All-Stars,” Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s début novel, death matches between predominantly Black prisoners are broadcast live for viewers’ entertainment. The book is an indictment of the criminal-justice system, one of several titles on the longlist that center on violent attempts to impose hierarchies of race or belief. “A Council of Dolls,” by Mona Susan Power, details the cruelty of Indian boarding schools intended to “civilize” Native American children. “This Other Eden,” by Paul Harding, is inspired by the history of Malaga Island, a mixed-race community off the coast of Maine whose residents were forcibly evicted, and some institutionalized, in the early twentieth century. “The End of Drum-Time,” by Hanna Pylväinen, imagines a difficult encounter between the native Sámi residents of Scandinavia and a Lutheran minister intent on converting them. And Justin Torres’s “Blackouts” takes up the research of the queer sexologist Jan Gay, which was co-opted to produce a mid-century study that pathologized homosexuality.

The ten titles on the list were chosen from four hundred and ninety-six submissions by publishers. Three authors on the longlist, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Justin Torres, have been previously honored by the National Book Foundation. The full list is below.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, “Chain-Gang All-Stars”
Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House

Aaliyah Bilal, “Temple Folk”
Simon & Schuster

Eliot Duncan, “Ponyboy”
W. W. Norton & Company

Paul Harding, “This Other Eden”
W. W. Norton & Company

Tania James, “Loot”
Knopf / Penguin Random House

Jayne Anne Phillips, “Night Watch”
Knopf / Penguin Random House

Mona Susan Power, “A Council of Dolls”
Mariner Books / HarperCollins Publishers

Hanna Pylväinen, “The End of Drum-Time”
Henry Holt & Company / Macmillan Publishers

Justin Torres, “Blackouts”
Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Macmillan Publishers

LaToya Watkins, “Holler, Child”
Tiny Reparations Books / Penguin Random House

The judges for the prize this year are Steph Cha, the author of “Your House Will Pay”; Calvin Crosby, the co-owner of The King’s English Bookshop; Silas House, whose novel “Lark Ascending” received the 2023 Southern Book Prize for Fiction; Mat Johnson, a professor of humanities at the University of Oregon and the author of “Invisible Things” and “Pym”; and Helena María Viramontes, a professor of English at Cornell University and the author of “Under the Feet of Jesus” and “Their Dogs Came with Them.” ♦

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