Debut writers dominate immigrant writing award shortlist

illustration of author heashots beside their book covers

Sindya Bhanoo’s “Seeking Fortune Elsewhere,” Daphne Palasi Andreades’s “Brown Girls,” and Aamina Ahmad’s “The Return of Faraz Ali” have been named finalists for George Mason University’s Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary, this award recognizes recently published works that illuminate the complexity of human experience as told by immigrants, whose work is historically underrepresented in writing and publishing. This year’s book prize was judged by authors Patricia Engel, Huan Hsu and Christopher Castellani. Engel won the award in 2021 and joined the ranks of previous winners Hernan Diaz, Melissa Rivero, and Lysley Tenorio.

The winning writer will receive $5,000, and the two finalists each will receive $1,000. The winner will be announced this fall, and all three finalists will join the judges for an award ceremony and reading to discuss their work. The event will be hosted by the Fall for the Book festival on Thursday, October 13, at 7:30 p.m. at Mason’s Fairfax Campus.

Bhanoo is a longtime newspaper reporter and a frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Washington Post. Castellini praised Bhanoo’s short fiction collection saying, “Bhanoo is an immensely talented writer who packs deep emotional punches into stories told economically and with elegant restraint.”

A graduate of Columbia University’s MFA Fiction program, Andreades was awarded a Henfield Prize and is recipient of a 2021 O. Henry Prize. Engel said of her debut novel: “Andreades offers an electric rendering of urban girls becoming women, their loyalties and fissures amid the wild and dislocating terrain of contemporary diaspora.”

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Ahmad has received a Stegner Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award. Hsu described her debut novel as “an engrossing, beautifully written saga of identity, loyalty, class, and aspiration, all wrapped in a page-turning crime thriller.”

Fall for the Book, which runs October 12-15, 2022, is Northern Virginia’s oldest and largest festival of literature and the arts. All events are free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of sponsors, including the Mason, Fairfax County Public Library, the Fairfax Library Foundation, and the City of Fairfax. For more information, visit