Meet the 2011 Discover Award Judges (Fiction): Chris Abani

Dear Reader,


Each year, we ask three writers to serve as Discover Award judges for fiction; we turn first to our alumni, then to other noted writers. This independent panel then decides the shortlist and final rankings from the previous year's Discover selections, and presents the awards at our annual awards ceremony in NYC.


Poet and novelist Chris Abani is a professor of literature at the University of California, Riverside, and the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize, and a Guggenheim Award, among other prizes. His novel, GraceLand, was a 2004 Discover selection, and his most recent book is the poetry collection Sanctificum. Born and raised in Nigeria, he lives in Los Angeles.


"GraceLand teems with incident, from the seedy crime dens of Maroko to the family melodrama of the Oke clan. But throughout the novel's action, Abani -- an accomplished poet who published his own first novel at Elvis's tender age of sixteen -- keeps the reader's gaze firmly on the detailed and contradictory cast of everyday Nigerian life. Energetic and moving...Abani [is] a fluid, closely observant writer." -- The Washington Post

"The specific terrors of [Song for Night]unfold as we follow the peregrinations of My Luck, a 15-year-old platoon leader with an automatic rifle whose job is to defuse mines. ...Through these travels, Abani -- who won the 2005 PEN/Hemingway award for his novel Graceland -- provides an impressive and fast-paced barrage of description and observation of war narrated with such dry and lucid precision that it brings to mind Babel, Hemingway, McCarthy." -- Esquire


"...Abani sets a personal best with [Sanctificum]. Divided into sections focusing on politics, young love, and genocide, the poems use musical rhythms and snatches of Igbo language to conjure images of human strife, nostalgia, and miscomprehension.... Abani beautifully amalgamates the intelligible, the ethical, and the aesthetic...gratifying for literary lovers." -- Library Journal


Cheers, Miwa


Miwa Messer

Miwa Messer is the Director of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program, which was established in 1990 to highlight works of exceptional literary quality that might otherwise be overlooked in a crowded book marketplace. Titles chosen for the program are handpicked by a select group of our booksellers four times a year. Click here for submission guidelines.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."