VCU Cabell First Novelist contest announces top 20 titles

April 3, 2023
Two piles of books in front of a framed poster of James Branch Cabell.

VCU’s Cabell First Novelist Award announces the long list for the 2022 Award year. The award received a record number of submissions this year, and these 20 titles are the top selections of volunteer readers and VCU’s MFA in Creative Writing students. Award administrators extend thanks to all publishers and authors who submitted works for consideration and to all the readers who offered their time and energy toward the creation of this list of exceptional debut novels. 

The long list titles, in no particular order:

  • Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow (The Dial Press)
  • Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades (Random House)
  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday)
  • Nuclear Family by Joseph Han (Counterpoint)
  • We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies by Tsering Yangzom Lama (Bloomsbury)
  • The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty (Knopf)
  • How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (William Morrow)
  • If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga (Graywolf Press)
  • Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou (Penguin Press)
  • The Doloriad by Missouri Williams (MCD x FSG)
  • Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang (Flatiron Books)
  • The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara (W. W. Norton)
  • The Verifiers by Jane Pek (Vintage)
  • The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb (Anchor)
  • Vagabonds! by Eloghosa Osunde (Riverhead)
  • Eleutheria by Allegra Hyde (Vintage/Anchor)
  • The Wild Hunt by Emma Seckel (Tin House)
  • Big Girl by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan (W. W. Norton)
  • The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern by Rita Zoey Chin (Melville House)
  • Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (One World)

The top 10 shortlist will be announced later this spring. The recipient of the award will be announced by July 1 and celebrated in a fall event on campus. 

The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award sponsors are the VCU Department of English, VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, VCU Libraries and Barnes & Noble at VCU. 

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