Ancestor Trouble is a Finalist for the 2023 John Leonard Prize for Best First Book

Image reads Finalists 2022 NBCC Johne Leonard Prize National Book Critics Circle and includes images of the following books: Jessamine Chan, The School for Good Mothers (S&S/Marysue Rucci Books); Jonathan Escoffery, If I Survive You (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch (Knopf); Zain Khalid, Brother Alive (Grove); Maud Newton, Ancestor Trouble (Random House); Morgan Talty, Night of the Living Rez (Tin House); Vauhini Vara, The Immortal King Rao (Norton)

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.


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