The National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 List Is All Women, And You Need To Add Them To Your Reading List

Every year, the National Book Foundation announces its 5 Under 35 honorees — young authors who have published a debut novel or short-story collection in the previous five years — in the hopes of launching new writers into the literary stratosphere. For 2017, all of the 5 Under 35 are women, something the literary community has not seen since 2013, when National Book Foundation judges selected Molly Antopol (The Unamericans), Noviolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names), Amanda Coplin (The Orchardist), Daisy Hildyard (Hunters in the Snow), and Merritt Tierce (Love Me Back). Notable in 2017, however, is the fact that three of the 5 Under 35 writers are women of color: a level of intersectional diversity we have not seen on this list before.

What's always great about the 5 Under 35 list is that, if you're the least bit tuned into the publishing world's hype, you'll have heard of some of the books on the list, and may have even read a few for yourself. That's true for pretty much any literary awards shortlist. Unlike those other awards, though, the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 does not require publishers or authors to submit themselves for consideration, and therefore book nerds frequently find novels and story collections from indie presses included. You might not ever have encountered those books otherwise, which is part of the 5 Under 35's charm.

The 2017 5 Under 35 honorees are:

  • Lesley Nneka Arimah, author of What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, selected by Chris Bachelder (The Throwback Special)
  • Halle Butler, author of Jillian, selected by Lydia Millet (Sweet Lamb of Heaven)
  • Zinzi Clemmons, author of What We Lose, selected by Angela Flournoy (The Turner House)
  • Leopoldine Core, author of When Watched, selected by Karan Mahajan (The Association of Small Bombs)
  • Weike Wang, author of Chemistry, selected by Sherman Alexie (You Don't Have to Say You Love Me)

It should come as no surprise for you to learn that all of the 5 Under 35 honorees come with some serious bona fides. Lesley Nneka Arimah has a novel, tentatively titled The Children of Bones, on the way from Riverhead, and Halle Butler's second novel, The New Me, is forthcoming from Penguin Books. Zinzi Clemmons co-founded Apogee Journal and is a contributing editor over at Literary Hub. Leopoldine Core won a Whiting Award for When Watched, and has also published a poetry collection, titled Veronica Bench. Weike Wang holds a doctoral degree from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, as well as an MFA from Boston University, and teaches at the Gotham Writers Workshop.