Raven Leilani’s Luster was announced the winner of The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize 2020 at a ceremony on Thursday, December 3, 2020.
The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize is an annual award presented by The Center for Fiction, a non-profit organization in New York, USA since 2006. It recognizes the year’s best debut novel as selected by a panel of distinguished American writers and carries with it an award of $15,000. Previous winners include De’Shawn Charles Winslow, Tiphanie Yanique, Junot Diaz, and Margaret Wrinkle.
The judging panel this year consisted of Stefan Merrill Block, Halle Butler, Jenny Offill, and De’Shawn Charles Winslow. This panel announced the winner for the 2020 award as Raven Leilani for her book Luster published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan. Irresistibly unruly and strikingly beautiful, razor-sharp and slyly comic, sexually charged and utterly absorbing, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of her life―her hunger, her anger―in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching depiction of how hard it is to believe in your own talent, and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.
“This is really special to me, so I want to take a moment to thank everyone who helped make this happen. First, I want to thank the selection committee and The Center for Fiction for choosing my novel for this award. The Center for Fiction was actually the last place I did a public reading with a room full of people before the pandemic hit, so this really means a lot to me,” said Leilani on her win.
She went on to add; “thank you to my cohort, my mentors at my MFA at NYU. Thank you for challenging me and pushing me while I was writing this book. Thank you to my family for being who you are and for making me feel like art was a worthwhile pursuit. Thank you to my partner Evan for reading all of my early drafts and for standing by me as I got this work out. Thank you to Trident and to FSG for ushering this book into the world with incredible enthusiasm, even in the midst of this unprecedented climate. You really made this first time around so special and so wonderful.”