Rachel Heng, Angie Kim, and DK Nnuro Named Finalists for 6th Annual New American Voices Award

Rachel Heng’s The Great Reclamation, Angie Kim’s Happiness Falls, and DK Nnuro’s What Napoleon Could Not Do have been named finalists for the Institute for Immigration Research’s New American Voices Award. Celebrating its 6th anniversary, this post-publication award recognizes recently published works that illuminate the complexity of human experience as told by immigrants, whose work is historically underrepresented in writing and publishing. This year’s book prize was judged by Chinelo Okparanta, Cleyvis Natera and Sofia Ali-Khan. 

The winner will be announced this fall, and all three finalists will join the judges for an award ceremony and reading on Thursday, October 12 at 7 p.m. at the Grand Tier III in George Mason’s Center for the ArtsPrevious winners of the New American Voices Award are: Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance, Melissa Rivero’s The Affairs of the Falcóns, Lysley Tenorio’s The Son of Good Fortune, Patricia Engel’s  Infinite Country, and Sindya Bhanoo’s Seeking Fortune Elsewhere

Meet the Finalists

Born and raised in Singapore, Rachel Heng is the author of the novel Suicide Club, translated into ten languages. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Glimmer Train, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers.

What the Judges said about The Great Reclamation:

The Great Reclamation is an epic, staggering story that charts a young boy’s coming of age against the changing landscape of his country of birth. As Lee Ah Boon becomes a man, we understand the seductive promise of progress. In Heng’s masterful hands, the tale morphs as it spans, challenging our concepts of love, change and possession. The ultimate revelation is as heartbreaking as it is honest about what lies at the core of many cultural and human transformations.”

Angie Kim moved from Seoul, Korea to Baltimore as a preteen. Author of the national bestseller Miracle Creek, a literary courtroom drama, her writing has appeared in Vogue, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Salon, and Slate.

What the Judges said about Happiness Falls:

Happiness Falls does several new things at once with tremendous success. It is a compelling mystery, bringing us into the nerdy, sprawling mind of its protagonist, but it is also an elegantly told drama, weaving insights on bicultural identity, the relativity of happiness, language, its absence, and disability throughout. Angie Kim has written a revelatory story about the contemporary American family in all its complexity.” Kim’s novel Miracle Creek was also named a finalist for the 2019 New American Voices Award.

DK Nnuro is a Ghanaian-born writer and is a graduate of Johns Hopkins and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has taught novel writing at the University of Iowa and is currently curator of special projects at the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art.

What the Judges said about What Napoleon Could Not Do:

“DK Nnuro has written a gorgeous, meditative novel that engages with America and the American dream in an interesting and complex way. Delving thoughtfully and creatively into issues of race, the immigrant experience, mental health, history, and more, What Napoleon Could Not Do urges us to look at America — and at our ambitions — from without as well as from within.”

About the Judges

Sofia Ali-Khan is a social justice lawyer turned writer/storyteller. Her first book of creative nonfiction, A Good Country: My Life in Twelve Towns and the Devastating Battle for a White America was published by Random House in July, 2022. Her writing at the intersection of politics, race, history, and Muslim America has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine,  among other publications.

Cleyvis Natera is the author of the critically acclaimed debut novel Neruda on the Park. Her fiction, essays and criticisms have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, URSA Story, TIME, Alien Nation: 36 True Tales of Immigration, Gagosian Quarterly, The Brooklyn Rail, The Rumpus, The Washington Post, Memorious, The Kenyon Review, Aster(ix) and Kweli Journal, among other publications.

Chinelo Okparanta was born and raised in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Her debut short story collection, Happiness, Like Water, was nominated for the Nigerian Writers Award, long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, as well as the Etisalat Prize for Literature. Her first novel, Under the Udala Trees, was nominated for numerous awards, including the Kirkus Prize and Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

Thank you to our Sponsor:

The Institute for Immigration Research produces multidisciplinary research on immigrants and immigration to the United States. The IIR is at the forefront of immigration research, producing high quality, timely research and analysis that examines the economic contributions of immigrants in the United States. Located in Fairfax, VA, just outside the nation’s capital, the IIR draws on unparalleled resources to advance its mission in research, education, and professional opportunities for current and future scholars of immigration studies, and engage in community outreach with one of the most diverse populations in the United States.

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