NEW YORK – Novelist Gayl Jones is a fiction nominee for the National Book Award, the rare established name on a list of 10 that features eight debut works of fiction.
Jones was cited Friday for “The Birdcatcher,” an exploration of race, art and marriage in which a Black American writer journeys to the island of Ibiza and stays with her married friends, one of whom is trying to kill the other. Jones, 72, is herself the author of one of the most acclaimed debut books in recent memory, the novel “Corregidora,” which came out in 1975. She has published sporadically in the decades following and last year broke a 20-year hiatus with the novel “Palmares," a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
The National Book Foundation, which presents the awards, announced long lists of 10 earlier this week for young people's literature, poetry, literature in translation and nonfiction. The competitive categories will be narrowed to lists of five on Oct. 4, with winners announced during a Nov. 16 ceremony that will include honorary prizes for cartoonist Art Spiegelman and for Tracie D. Hall, executive director of the American Library Association.
The lists are judged by panels of authors, critics and other members of the literary community. Among the books bypassed by fiction judges: Jennifer Egan’s “The Candy House,” Lydia Millet’s “Dinosaurs,” Andrew Sean Greer’s “Less Is Lost” and Yiyun Li’s “The Book of Goose.”
Besides Jones, Jamil Jan Kochai is the only nominee who had previously published fiction. He was cited Friday for the collection “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories." The fiction list also includes two filmmakers: Fatimah Asghar, author of “If They Come for Us,” is the writer and co-creator of the Emmy-nominated “Brown Girls”; Ramona Emerson, who wrote and directed the documentary “The Mayors of Shiprock,” is a National Book Award nominee for “Shutter.”
Three of the debut books are story collections: Leigh Newman's “Nobody Gets Out Alive,” Marytza K. Rubio's “Maria, Maria & Other Stories” and Jonathan Escoffery's “If I Survive You," an interlinked series of stories.
The other nominees are Sarah Thankam Mathews' ”All This Could Be Different," Tess Gunty's “The Rabbit Hutch” and Alejandro Varela's “The Town of Babylon,” released by Astra Publishing House, which was founded just two years ago.