It seems that with each passing year, the stakes of the debate over immigration and immigrant rights get higher and higher. Since 2016, Restless has been proud to support the voices of immigrants and help some incredible first-generation writers bring their stories to our readers through the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. This prize awards $10,000 and publication with Restless Books to a writer who has produced a work that addresses the effects of global migration on identity. The prize-winning books alternate between fiction and nonfiction every year; 2019 will have a nonfiction winner.
This year’s judges, Héctor Tobar, Terry Hong, and Ilan Stavans, have borne the hefty task of narrowing down this year’s submissions to a group of five finalists. This process required tremendous care and consideration, and we wish nothing but the best for all those who submitted their work.
Without further ado, here is the 2019 shortlist for the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing:
Acidente: A Memoir, by Sarah Chaves
Just on the brink of almost-adulthood, expecting to leave for college that fall, Chaves experiences a devastating loss during her family’s annual summer pilgrimage to her immigrant parents’ ancestral village in the Azores. Chaves will need a dozen years of distanced survival to begin to confront and accept what happened on that tragic evening of drunken risks.
Bon Courage: Essays on Life, Books & Politics, by Ru Freeman
A collection of diverse essays that require active, careful participation from the reader as Freeman seamlessly shifts between politics, sexuality, literature, and culture. Provocative and profound, these essays are a call to action.
Antiman, by Rajiv Mohabir
A multi-genre exploration of sexuality, identity, and belonging, Antiman combines linear prose, various poetic forms, transcriptions of traditional myths, and simultaneous translations of family lore. Tracing his ancestors’ peripatetic, century-plus migrations from rural India to Guyana to Canada and the US, Mohabir examines both the bonds and disconnects between his American identity as a gay poet with the expectations and limitations of his diverse cultural inheritance.
Little Frankenstein: The Unmaking of a Boy, A Memoir, by Franc Perdomo
Decades after surviving years of sexual abuse that began when he was only 5 by his then 23-year-old cousin, Perdomo is finally able to confront his abusers and his complicit extended family on the page. Raw, graphic, and unblinking, in Little Frankenstein, Perdomo lays bare the depraved manipulations and malicious control that kept him repeatedly returning to his abuser.
Struggles of Strangers: Of Bonding and Freedom, A German-Iraqi Memoir, by Junis Sultan
In Struggles of Strangers, Sultan explores the intricacies of cultural displacement as his family is forced to flee Iraq after the Gulf War and settle in Germany. Struggles of Strangers is a powerful narrative that confronts issues of immigration, cultural assimilation, and familial ties.
We wish the best of luck to all our finalists. Stay tuned to see who the winner of 2019’s Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing will be!
ABOUT THE 2019 NONFICTION FINALISTS
Rajiv Mohabir is a self-identifying Indo-Guyanese queer born in London to Guyanese parents and raised in the U.S. from toddlerhood. His writing is an expression of the hybridity of his community, which he has described as “not exactly Indian, not exactly new to the Western hemisphere, nonfiction writing expressed not exactly in only one genre.”
After fleeing Iraq due to the 1991 Gulf War, Junis Sultan and his family settled in Germany. Sultan recalls spending his adolescence journaling, using writing to process his experiences of personal integration as a Muslim teenager in the years following the 9/11 terror attacks.
Ru Freeman is a Sri Lankan-born writer and activist, known for her mastery of language as demonstrated in her novels A Disobedient Girl and On Sal Mal Lane. Her incredible blend of political activism and art demands careful attention from her readers.
Sarah Chaves is a first-generation Portuguese-American whose parents emigrated from the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal. Her adolescence was punctuated by grief, leading her to a lifelong meditation on the differences in grieving between the two cultures she has always felt to be astride.
Franc Perdomo was born in Guatemala and raised in San Francisco. His career has changed course several times, from dance, to IT, to Art History, and eventually to a creative writing course at Stanford, where he began to write Little Frankenstein: The Unmaking of a Boy.