Meet the National Book Foundation’s 2018 5 Under 35 Honorees

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Each year, the National Book Foundation recognizes five debut fiction authors under the age of 35 from around the world who they believe will leave a lasting impression on the literary landscape. The 2018 5 Under 35 Honorees were announced today, and they include an impressive list of young authors to watch. Check out the honorees below, along with descriptions of their debut books.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah HeadshotNana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black

In his debut short story collection, Adjei-Brenyah explores the violent and unjust situations black men and women are put in every day by placing ordinary characters in extraordinary and haunting situations. Friday Black is both commentary on racism and cultural unrest and a call to action for social change. Adjei-Brenyah is from Spring Valley, New York, and is a graduate of SUNY Albany and Syracuse University.

Hannah Lillith Assadi HeadshotHannah Lillith Assadi, author of Sonora

Set in a stark Arizona landscape, Sonora tells of Ahlam and Laura, two girls that fall into a deeply emotional partnership and flee their homes for New York City after a series of mysterious deaths in their high school. It’s a haunting tale of addiction, obsession, and self-destruction. Hannah Lillith Assadi was raised in Phoenix and now lives in Brooklyn. She is a graduate of the Columbia University School of the Arts.

Akwaeke Emezi headshotAkwaeke Emezi, author of Freshwater

Born with “one foot on the other side,” Nigerian protagonist Ada experiences the world through a fractured and splintered perspective. This layered debut novel explores identity, trauma, mental health, and gender in a unique and unforgettable way. Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist raised in Nigeria. Emezi is a graduate of New York University.

Lydia Kiesling headshotLydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State

After her Turkish husband is denied entry to the United States due to a “clerical error,” young mother Daphne is on the verge of a breakdown and flees her life in San Francisco with her toddler Honey, looking for peace in the deserts of Altavista. The Golden State is a sharp examination of class, culture, and parenthood. Kiesling lives in San Francisco and is the editor of literary magazine The Millions.

Moriel Rothman-Zecher headshotMoriel Rothman-Zecher, author of Sadness Is a White Bird

When Jonathan returns to Israel after several years in Pennsylvania to serve in the Israeli army, he must reconcile his loyalty to his country with his close friendship with two Palestinian siblings. It’s a powerful narrative of heritage, legacy, violence, and self-discovery. Rothman-Zecher is an American-Israeli writer and poet currently living in Ohio. He is a graduate of Middlebury College.


The National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honorees are selected by authors previously recognized by the program, or previous National Book Award Winners, Finalists, or Longlisted authors. Learn more about this year’s National Book Award longlists for Fiction, Nonfiction, and Translated Literature.