It's often said that novel writing is best left to older authors with a lifetime's worth of experience under their belts. How can a 27-year old speak with authority to all of life's complexities and nuances?
This stereotype has assorted variations. People under 30 thrive in certain fields like, say, rock music, while painters reach their creative peak in middle age. (Indeed, research suggests that modern painters did their greatest work in their 40s — 42 to be exact.)
But the problem with our introductory stereotype is that (spoiler alert!) like most stereotypes, it's not exactly true. Jack London wrote The Call of the Wild at 27. Normam Mailer wrote The Naked and the Dead at 25. And Slyvia Plath wrote The Bell Jar at the ancient age of 29.
Fortunately, the National Book Foundation is well aware of the perils of stereotyping. Its "5 Under 35" awards honor five writers under the age of 35 who have published their first novel or story collection in the past five years. Established in 2006, the 5 Under 35 program has honored more than fifty emerging writers including Angela Flournoy, Phil Klay, Valeria Luiselli, Justin Torres, and Kirstin Valdez Quade.
The foundation, which, according to its site receives support from the likes of Barnes & Noble, the Ford Foundation, and Penguin Random House, recently announced this year's award winners. Each honoree is selected by a writer who was either a finalist for the National Book Award or a previous honoree of the 5 Under 35 program. For example, Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing was selected by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Check out the five 2016 recipients, who each receive $1,000, here.
"We are proud to add the current 5 Under 35 honorees to the National Book Foundation's roster of remarkable writers," said David Steinberger, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. "There is no doubt that all 5 Under 35 honorees have expanded and will continue to expand the literary landscape by producing work that engages the world at large."
In related analysis, check out our profile of Molly Antopol, previous winner of the 5 Under 35 Award and a Wallace Stegner Fellow, here.