Now in its fifth year, the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing supports the voices of immigrant writers whose works straddle cultural divides, embrace the multicultural makeup of our society, and interrogate questions of identity in a global society. This prize awards $10,000 and publication with Restless Books to a writer who has produced a work that addresses the effects of global migration on identity. This year’s judges, Dinaw Mengestu, Achy Obejas, and Ilan Stavans, have selected the below five finalists. Click on the links in each section to read excerpts from their books.
Three Trips by Sindya Bhanoo
This moving and profound collection of short stories about the lives of South Indian immigrants and their families offers a complex look at the effects of immigration, not only on those who leave, but also those who stay. From a young woman in Georgia on the brink of starting college to a lonely mother in India adjusting to life in a retirement home, Bhanoo deftly explores the nuances of family bonds, identity, and cultural assimilation in these stories. Read the excerpt.
The Life and Times of the Little Manuscript & Anonymous by Meron Hadero
These continent-crossing stories are full of nuanced, fully realized characters. A ten-year-old refugee in Iowa by way of Berlin befriends an older German man. A street sweeper pins his hopes on a smooth-talking NGO employee. With understated power, these tales explore the many kinds of borders we cross to find belonging. Read the excerpt.
Together We Aspire by Justin Haynes
Set in a Trinidadian fishing village, this novel is memorably narrated by a chorus of local men. When a scarlet ibis appears on the roof of a house one day, the bad luck it portends falls on the village in spades. Fishermen are held for ransom offshore, and then begin turning up in pieces. A young girl fleeing Venezuela arrives, rescued from a brothel. And then a foreign reporter starts poking around. Inventive and vividly told, this story crackles with violence. Read the excerpt.
Until the Deer Return by Alisa Koyrakh
A frank exploration of identity and family dynamics, Until the Deer Return lays bare the desires of a mother and daughter to reconcile their Russian culture and Jewish heritage in their search to define themselves. Zhenya and her daughter Natasha leave Russia, moving first to Italy and then to the United States. As Zhenya distances herself from her past, Natasha delves deeper into her family’s origins as she seeks to understand her mother and their history. Read the excerpt.
The Thousand-Year Dream by Natali Petricic
A heartfelt, nonlinear family saga told through connected short stories, at the center is a Croatian family from the Dalmatian Islands experiences the fall of communism, emigrates to Washington state, and confronts the duality of hope as they share collective joys and heartbreaks. These tales paint a full picture of the motivations, sacrifices, and realities of one family’s choice to start a new life. Read the excerpt.