E.J. Koh has won the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, given annually to a writer age 35 or younger, for her novel The Liberators.

Koh’s novel, published last November by Tin House, follows Insuk, a South Korean woman in the early 1980s who moves to California with her family and embarks on an affair that alters the course of her life. In a starred review, a critic for Kirkus wrote, “Koh’s poetic prose delights with surprising metaphors and a cast of skillfully rendered characters. A mesmerizing, delicately crafted novel about survival in the wake of civil war and transpacific imperialism.”

Koh was named winner of the prize at a ceremony Thursday night in New York. Judging the award this year were authors A.M. Homes, Caoilinn Hughes, and Zain Khalid.

The Liberators is a deft and powerful novel, historical and deeply humane,” Homes said in a statement. “E.J. Koh illuminates Korean history with compassion and a poet's gift for language creating a haunting and resonant elegy that cuts across the great divide of multiple countries and generations.”

The Young Lions Fiction Award was established in 2001 by actor Ethan Hawke, author Rick Moody, librarian Hannah McFarland, and literary agent Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. Previous winners include Mark Z. Danielewski for House of Leaves, Uzodinma Iweala for Beasts of No Nation, and Catherine Lacey for Pew.

Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.