Rachel Heng accepting the Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award from Michelle Dromgold-Sermen. Photo by Aster Equine Photography.

Rachel Heng Wins 6th Annual New American Voices Award

October 12, 2023, Fairfax, VA – Rachel Heng has won the 6th Annual Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award for her novel The Great Reclamation. She accepted the award in Grand Tier III of George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, receiving a $5,000 prize for this year’s award. Heng, who was born and raised in Singapore reflected, “When I first started writing this book, I wondered if anyone in America would want to read a book like this, [but] the longer that I’ve been here, I’ve come to see a lot of similarities [between Singapore and the US]. Both are countries of immigrants, [and] it means the world to me, truly, to have this novel recognized for those commonalities.”

Judges Cleyvis Natera, Sofia Ali-Khan, and Chinelo Okparanta said of Heng’s book: 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.”

In her opening remarks, Natera explained that the judges were looking for “literary mastery. What that meant to us was that the [writers] had strong craft elements, it was evident in the text they were pushing up against conventions, and the books were reckoning against the current moment.” She added, “It was important the books sweep us away.”

The two other finalists, Angie Kim, author of Happiness Fall, and DK Nnuro, author of What Napoleon Could Not Do, also read from and discussed their work. Each received $1,000. Heng praised her fellow finalists and the judges in her remarks: “When I read books by DK, Angie, Cleyvis, and Sofia, they feel to me like home.”

The previous 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

About us: Fall for the Book is Northern Virginia’s oldest and largest festival of literature and the arts. All events are free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of sponsors including the Fairfax County Public Library, George Mason University, the Fairfax Library Foundation, and the City of Fairfax.  For more information, visit our website: fallforthebook.org

About the Institute for Immigration Research: 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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