Sometimes red currants at the farmer’s market glow like dashboard warning lights, the sugar in my shopping basket drags on my arm like lead, and sweetness, beauty, danger taste the same. Sometimes my eyes project the letters from a sign outside the Licht- und Luftbad in Essen, Germany, onto the walls of a new world. Sometimes my retina and taste buds feel like my grandmother’s rather than my own. I cannot tell the currant story in third person, because, though she lived and told it, it is mine.
The woman stops in mid-greeting, mid-step; I nearly bash her knees with the picnic basket swinging from my hand.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, balancing the basket on my forearm to rummage through blanket, coffee flask, fork, spoon, making sure the bag of sugar is still wedged upright, between the currants and the white enamel bowl. She doesn’t answer, doesn’t move. I look up from the basket, then farther up at her face. She gazes past me; I turn to trace the line of her fixed stare. The entrance lodge to the Licht- und Luftbad looks the same as always: red geraniums, peeling paint, tack-bitten wood around the ticket booth window cluttered with signs—women this way, men that way, admissions prices, rules and regulations, opening times. Even the porter is the same.
On the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing:
Migration is an increasingly common feature of modern life. Whether for personal or for political or environmental reasons, when people cross the many thresholds of our world—traversing landscapes, languages, traditions, and border lines—they do so often at great personal risk. Those who make this transformative passage reckon with the isolation of displacement as well as with the meaning and value of “belonging” on unfamiliar soil. Their stories are the connective tissue of a global society, speaking directly to our present and our future.
Since its inauguration in 2015, theRestless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing supports the voices of writers whose work brings fresh urgency to crossing cultural and linguistic divides, questions the sense of self in an increasingly interdependent world, and lends a voice to what it means to leave one home for another and why these stories need to be told. The winner will receive $10,000 and publication with Restless Books. This year’s judges, Grace Talusan, Jiaming Tang, and Ilan Stavans, have selected the following four finalists.
Read Excerpts by the Finalists for the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing 2023