The lion has roared. At their annual awards ceremony on Monday, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions announced that Molly Antopol’s The UnAmericans won the 2015 Young Lions Fiction Award.
When the Young Lions Fiction Award shortlist was announced back in February, it was tough to pick out a front-runner among the five gifted finalists. In addition to Antopol’s The UnAmericans, the honorees included Catherine Lacey’s Nobody is Ever Missing; Andrew Ladd’s What Ends; Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun; and Ben Lerner’s 10:04.
The Young Lions is a membership group for New York-based book nerds and library lovers in their 20s and 30s, and helps fund the New York Public Library's Book Fund. The group has been honoring writers aged 35-and-under with their Fiction Award for 15 years. That means Antopol is in good company: past Young Lion winners include Wells Tower, Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Mark Danielewski. Last year, Paul Yoon took home the prize.
The UnAmericans is Antopol's debut short story collection. Each story explores characters who have been shaped by the course of history, and things beyond their control that move and shake their lives. Characters range from a young Israeli journalist who lost a job in America during the economy crash; an absentee father in communist-era Prague, who dissents from the political majority; and a communist-leaning actor who has been jailed during Los Angeles' McCarthy era, among others.
While age-based literary awards might get some flak, no one can deny that the work and artistry each of these young writers put into their extraordinary novels deserves recognition. Congrats to Molly and to each of the 2015 honorees!