Tyriek White has won the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize for We Are a Haunting.
White’s novel, published in April by Astra House, tells the story of Key, a doula in 1980s Brooklyn who is able to communicate with the dead. After her death, her son, Colly, learns that he has the same power. A critic for Kirkus praised the book as “an intelligent, gritty, discursive group portrait of working-class New York from the 1980s to now.”
White was announced as the winner of the award at a ceremony at Cipriani 25 Broadway in New York. The jury for the prize was composed of authors Hannah Lillith Assadi, Ayana Mathis, Tochi Onyebuchi, and Deesha Philyaw.
We Are a Haunting was one of seven books shortlisted for the award, alongside Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo, Lookout by Christine Byl, Pay as You Go by Eskor David Johnson, Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks, Night Wherever We Go by Tracey Rose Peyton, and Y/N by Esther Yi.
The First Novel Prize, which comes with a cash award of $15,000, was established in 2006. Past winners have included Junot Diaz for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Ben Fountain for Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, and Noor Naga for If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English.
Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.