2019 New American Voices Award winner Melissa Rivero. Photo credit: Christopher Dickson.

On Thursday, October 10, Melissa Rivero author of the debut novel The Affairs of the Falcóns was awarded the second annual Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award. Fall for the Book created this post-publication book prize 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. Before announcing the winner,Diane Portnoy, founder and CEO of the Immigrant Learning Center discussed the importance of immigrants to the United States and to literature, saying “stories… help educate the public in a way statistics cannot…We are ushering in the next generation of great authors.”

Accepting the award, Rivero said the book, “was a labor of
love for me. I’m a working mom, I have two little kids, and I just want to keep
writing.” She received an engraved glass book, as well as $5,000 for the top
prize. When naming her a finalist, the judges said, “This novel is a fierce
reminder of the price that immigrants pay for a shot at the American Dream, and
what is gained and what is lost in its pursuit.

Reyna Grande, Alia Malek, and E.C. Osondu judged this year’s contest, which was sponsored by the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University. Grande and Osondu spoke about the finalists’ books and their own work as immigrant writers. Grande said, “Whenever I get messages that I don’t belong here, I pick up my pen and write my place.” Osondu praised literature by immigrants saying, “The vibrancy is amazing…. Writing is one of those places where we can inhabit lives that aren’t our own.”

About the Winner


From left to right: Jim Witte from the Institute for Immigration Research; Judges Reyna Grande and E.C. Osondu; Diane Portnoy of the Immigrant Learning Center; and finalists Eugenia Kim, Angie Kim, and Melissa Rivero. Photo credit: Christopher Dickson.

Melissa Rivero was born in Lima, Peru and raised in Brooklyn. Her
writing has taken her to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the VONA/Voices
Workshops, and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony. In 2015, Melissa was an
Emerging Writers Fellow at the Center for Fiction. She is a graduate of NYU and
Brooklyn Law School, and currently works as in-house legal counsel at a
startup. She still lives in Brooklyn with her family. The Affairs of the Falcóns is her first novel.2019

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