A literary prize for first generation immigrant authors

Restless Books, an independent, non-profit publisher based in New York, has announced the Prize for New Immigrant Writing, in an effort to find “emerging writers of sharp, culture-straddling writing that addresses identity in a global age.”

The Prize will award $10,000 to the winning (first generation) author, and Restless Books will publish the fiction work; the window for submissions closes February 28, 2018.

Touch BASE talked to Ilan Stephens, publisher and co-founder of Restless Books, about the prize, and the organization.

TB: What’s the ethos and background behind Restless Books?

IS: Restless Books was born out of the need to bring more superb literary works into the English language and specifically into the United States. Only 3% of books published every year are in translation. This is an embarrassment for a country this large and this powerful. We focus on fiction, nonfiction, and memoirs that delve into the restlessness of modern life.

TB: The Prize for New Immigrant Writing is relatively new – why create this award? 

IS: Who speaks for the immigrant in these cruel times? All of us but especially the immigrants themselves. They are often misrepresented as criminals, violent, abusive, and lazy. We need to create platforms where they are humanized. That’s what the New Immigrant Writing Prize is. I am an immigrant myself: a Mexican Jew who came to the United States in the mid-1980s in search of freedom. I am wholeheartedly grateful for the opportunities given to me. I want to do the same to others.

Ilan Stavans © Kevin Gutting (3).jpg RESIZE

TB: It has an emphasis on first generation immigrants – why is this focus important? 

IS: The purpose is to allow immigrants to speak for themselves, not their children or others. The objective is also to showcase how extraordinary the literature that comes from immigrant often is. We seek books that have a sophisticated literary sensibility. We also want them to be courageous—not necessarily political but courageous. Let us discover through them the complexity of an immigrant’s life.

TB: Restless Books has an intriguing new genre: Cuban Science Fiction (SF). Tell me more about that?

IS: It is one of our most successful genres. Latin America, and Cuba in particular, have a rich SF tradition. But few people know about it because the emphasis in bringing the literature from the region to English has been on other issues. In 2013, while in Havana, I met Yoss, an extraordinary S-F author. After reading his work, I was enthralled. We have published two of his books: A PLANET FOR RENT and SUPER EXTRA GRANDE. A third one is forthcoming in 2018. Yoss, in turn introduced me to an array of classic and contemporary narratives that address the future of Cuba and humankind in perplexing ways.

Here’s more on the Prize for New Immigrant Writing.



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