Finalists Chosen for The New York Public Library’s 2012 Young Lions Fiction Award

Winner to be awarded $10,000 prize at May 14th ceremony

March 8, 2012— The New York Public Library has announced the finalists for the twelfth-annual Young Lions Fiction Award. The award honors the works of young authors carving deep impressions in the literary world. The winning writer will be awarded a $10,000 prize on Monday, May 14, 2012 at a ceremony in the Celeste Bartos Forum of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street.

The finalists for 2012 Young Lions Fiction Award are:

  • Open City by Teju Cole (Random House)
  • The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale (Twelve/Hachette Book Group)
  • Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner (Coffee House Press)
  • Swamplandia! By Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury)

The Young Lions Fiction Award is given annually to an American writer age 35 or younger for either a novel or collection of short stories. Each year five young fiction writers are selected as finalists by a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians. Award judges Adam Levin, A.M. Homes, and Àlvaro Enrigue will select the winner of the $10,000 prize. See below for more information about the finalists.

Winners from previous years include: Adam Levin, The Instructions ; Wells Tower, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned; Salvatore Scibona, The End; Ron Currie, Jr., God Is Dead; Olga Grushin, The Dream Life of Sukhanov; Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation; Andrew Sean Greer, The Confessions of Max Tivoli; Monique Truong, The Book of Salt; Anthony Doerr, The Shell Collector; Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated; Colson Whitehead, John Henry Days; Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves.

About the Young Lions

The Young Lions is a membership group for New Yorkers in their 20s and 30s who are committed to supporting the work of the Library. Each season, members enjoy exclusive events that feature young writers and leaders in the arts, politics, business, law, and the media. Through the presentation of dynamic events and contributions to the General Book Fund, the Young Lions are integral to the life of the Library and its future. Information about the Young Lions group, including events and forums, is available online at or by phone at 212-930-0885.

About The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award

The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award is a $10,000 prize awarded each spring to a writer age 35 or younger for a novel or a collection of short stories. Established in 2001, this annual award recognizes the work of young authors and celebrates their accomplishments publicly, making a difference in their lives as they continue to build their careers. The Young Lions Fiction Award was founded by Ethan Hawke, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, Rick Moody, and Hannah McFarland. The Award is made possible by an endowment created with generous gifts from Russell Abrams, Nina Collins, Hannah and Gavin McFarland, Ethan Hawke, Stephan Loewentheil, Rick Moody, Andrea Olshan and Jennifer Rudolph Walsh.


2012 Young Lions Fiction Award Finalists

Open City by Teju Cole (Random House)

Teju Cole was raised in Nigeria and came to the United States in 1992. He is a writer, photographer, and professional historian of early Netherlandish art.Open City is his first novel. He lives in New York City.

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale (Twelve/Hachette Book Group)

Benjamin Hale is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, where he received a Provost's Fellowship to complete this novel, which also went on to win the prestigious Michener-Copernicus Award. His debut novel is the winner of The Bard Fiction Prize, a finalist for The Dylan Thomas Prize, and was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, and The Huffington Post. He has been a night shift baker, a security guard, a trompe l'oeil painter, a pizza deliverer, a cartoonist, an illustrator and a technical writer. He grew up in Colorado and now lives in New York.

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner (Coffee House Press)

Ben Lerner is the author of three books of poetry: The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, and Mean Free Path. He has been a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, a Fulbright Scholar in Spain, and a Howard Foundation Fellow.  In 2011 he became the first American to win the Preis der Stadt Münster für Internationale Poesie. His debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station,was named one of the best books of the year by The New Yorker, The Guardian, The New Statesmen, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, and New York Magazine, among many others. He teaches in the writing program at Brooklyn College.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf)

Karen Russell, a native of Miami, has been featured in The New Yorker’s debut fiction issue and on The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list and was chosen as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. In 2009, she received the 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation. Three of her short stories have been selected for the Best American Short Stories volumes. Her second novel Swamplandia! was a New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year selection. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program and is currently a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury)

Jesmyn Ward  is the winner of the 2011 National Book Award for her novel Salvage the Bones. The novel also won an ALA Alex Award. She grew up and still makes her home in DeLisle, Mississippi, a town she fictionalized in both Salvage the Bones and her debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds. Ward received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, where she won five Hopwood Awards for her fiction, essays, and drama. She held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University from 2008-2010 and served as the Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi during the following year. Ward currently teaches creative writing at the University of Southern Alabama in Mobile and is at work on a memoir, Men We Reaped, to be published in 2013.