Being a finalist for the John Leonard Prize, in such exceptional company, is an almost unfathomable honor. Apart from my high school literary magazine and my middle school newspaper, my very first piece of published writing was a book review. I know what a responsibility it is, how difficult and time-consuming it is, to wrestle with a book — honestly and fairly, while being mindful of its own terms and ambitions — and to convey your opinion in words. I seldom review books these days largely for that reason.
The finalists for this particular award, for a first book in any genre, are voted in by a majority of National Book Critics Circle members. I’m incredibly grateful to every critic who voted for my book, and to every critic who read and wrestled with it, regardless of their opinion in the end. Thank you. And also, as Michael Chabon observed on Instagram, John Leonard is the best.
Congratulations to my talented fellow finalists, Jessamine Chan, Jonathan Escoffery, Tess Gunty, Zain Khalid, Morgan Talty, and Vauhini Vara. And thanks always to my editor, Andrea Walker, my agent, Julie Barer, the team at Random House, and Michael Taeckens.