Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Great Reading List: The Long-List for a Prestigious First Novel Prize

The Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, started in 2006, recently released its long-list of first novels up for the award. The announcement grabbed my attention because it includes a 2014 favorite of mine -- the tender, achingly poignant first novel, "Byrd," by Raleigh lawyer Kim Church.
Among the 26 novels named, others with North Carolina connections include "Young God," by Wilkes County native Katherine Faw Morris; "The Word Exchange," by Durham native Alena Graedon; "The End of Always," by Chapel Hill's Randi Daveport; "The Invention of Exile," by Vanessa Manko, who graduated from the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem and now  lives in Brooklyn; and "Life Drawing," by Robin Black, a graduate of Warren Wilson's MFA Program for Writers. Black lives in Philadelphia, and she is also the author of the prize-winning short story collection, "If I loved you, I would tell you this."
Another on the list I've put on my own reading list: "We Are Not Ourselves," by Matthew Thomas, 39, a former high school English teacher in New York City, who got more than a $1 million advance in this country and a six-figure UK deal at the London Book Fair after a bidding war over his 700-page manuscript, which took him 10 years to write.
Thomas is an Irish-American, who studied fiction with Alice McDermott at Johns Hopkins, after graduating from the University of Chicago. Set in the second half of the 20th century, the novel, says Publisher's Weekly, is a "sprawling portrait of the Irish-American Leary family -- Ed, Eileen and their son Connell -- as they move from Jackson Heights, Queens, to Bronxville, New York, in pursuit of the American dream." The book will be out in August.
The short-list for the prize will be announced in September, and thewinner in December. Stay tuned.