Winner: “The Rabbit Hutch” by Tess Gunty
Set during an oppressively hot week in July, this contemporary coming-of-age novel is about four teens who have aged out of the foster care system and are living together in a once-bustling industrial city in Indiana. As one of the teens tries to escape the people and systems that have harmed her, this novel shines as a story about community and loneliness, cumulating with a devastating act of violence. “The Rabbit Hutch” is Tess Gunty’s debut novel and she was one of three authors nominated this year for their first published book.
“The Birdcatcher” by Gayl Jones
Called “a study in Black women’s creative expression,” “The Birdcatcher” is told from the perspective of writer Amanda Wordlaw whose best friend is being repeatedly institutionalized for trying to kill her husband. Jones was first discovered and edited by Toni Morrison and her last novel, “Palmares,” was a 2022 Pulitzer Prize finalist.
“The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories” by Jamil Jan Kochai
This collection of short stories explores heritage, home, and the ghosts of war, with elements of horror, magical realism, and more woven throughout the anthology. With unforgettable Afghan characters, these stories range from the connection between a young man’s video game and his father’s real memories of war to a doctor couple that decides to stay in their home even as violence grows and their son disappears.
“All This Could Be Different” by Sarah Thankam Mathews
Sneha is a queer Indian woman who has just graduated from college into a recession and moved to Milwaukee to start an entry-level corporate job that offers the financial security she needs, opening more doors than ever before. But as challenges rise and her world begins to spin out of control, Sneha throws herself into a new relationship while her friend tries to find a radical solution to their problems.
“The Town of Babylon” by Alejandro Varela
In the wake of his husband’s infidelity, Andrés returns to his hometown and decides to go to his 20-year high school reunion, rekindling old friendships and reuniting with an old love. As he cares for his aging parents, navigates his old neighborhood, and revisits old friends, Andrés must face old wounds, systems, and people who shaped his life in many different ways.