Submissions are now closed. They will re-open in November 2018. Thank you to everyone who submitted. 

Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award

Fall for the Book, Northern Virginia’s oldest literary festival, has created an award to recognize recently published works that illuminate the complexity of human experience as told by immigrants, whose work is historically underrepresented in writing and publishing. The inaugural presentation of the award will be October 2018, which will mark the 20th anniversary of the festival.

The Contest

The prize will be juried by Helon Habila, Madeleine Thien, and Maaza Mengiste who will choose three finalists and then award the prize to one. Finalists will be announced in early Fall 2018 and all three finalists and the judges will appear at the 2018 Fall for the Book festival, October 10-13 for the inaugural presentation and to read from and discuss their work. The winning writer will receive $5,000 and the two finalists each will receive $1,000. 


  • Starting November 2017, publishers can enter immigrant writers who have published no more than three books, only one of which may be at a Top 5 Publisher.
  • Entries must be prose: literary fiction or creative non-fiction. Please no journalism, plays, or poetry.
  • Eligible books must have been (or will be) published between January 2017 and September 30, 2018.
  • Five bound copies of the book (galleys acceptable) must be postmarked March 31, 2018 and sent to Fall for the Book, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive MS 3E4, Fairfax, VA 22030, along with a $20 entry fee. Checks can be made out to Fall for the Book, Inc.

The Judges

Helon Habila

Nigerian writer, Helon Habila’s first novel, Waiting for an Angel, has been translated into many languages including Dutch, Italian, Swedish, and French.  His writing has won many prizes including the Caine Prize, 2001; the Commonweath Writers Prize, Africa region, 2003; the Emily Balch Prize, 2008, and the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction, 2015.

He is a contributing editor to the Virginia Quarterly Review.  His second novel, Measuring Time, published in 2007, won the Virginia Library Foundation Fiction Award, 2008, and was shortlisted for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, 2008.  His third novel, Oil on Water, was published in the U.S. in 2011.  His stories, articles, reviews, and poems have appeared in various magazines and papers including Granta, AGNI, and the London Guardian.  His short story, The Hotel Malogo, was selected for the Best American Non-required Reading Anthology.  Habila is the editor of the Granta Book of African Short Story, 2011.


Madeleine Thien

Madeleine Thien was born in Vancouver, the youngest daughter of Malaysian-Chinese immigrants to Canada. Her novels (Dogs at the Perimeter, Certainty) and stories have been translated into 25 languages and her essays can be found in The Guardian, the Globe & MailGranta, The New York Times, and elsewhere. Her most recent book, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, about art, music and revolution in 20th century China, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, and The Folio Prize. She is professor of English at Brooklyn College.

Maaza Mengiste

Maaza Mengiste is a novelist and essayist. Her debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, was selected by the Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books and named one of the best books of 2010 by Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe and other publications. Her fiction and nonfiction can be found in The New Yorker, Granta, the Guardian, the New York Times, BBC Radio,and Lettre International, among other places. She was the 2013 Puterbaugh Fellow and a Runner-up for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Both her fiction and nonfiction examine the individual lives at stake during migration, war, and exile, and consider the intersections of photography and violence. She was a writer on the social-activist documentary film, GIRL RISING, which features the voices of actors such as Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, and Cate Blanchett. She currently serves on the boards of Words Without Borders and Warscapes. Her second novel, The Shadow King, is forthcoming.


For more information, please contact Festival Director, Kara Oakleaf at or at 703-993-3986.