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5 under 35: National Book Foundation honors young fiction authors

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The National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 honorees
The National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" honorees
Courtesy of National Book Foundation

This weekend, the National Book Foundation unveiled their rising stars: the "5 Under 35" honorees.

The five fiction authors were each selected by National Book Award winners and finalists, as well as by previous "5 Under 35" honorees.

Brit Bennett, "The Mothers"

Brit Bennett's first novel is one of the most buzzed-about books of the year. It doesn't officially hit shelves until Oct. 11, but has already been hailed as "one of the most exciting debuts of the fall," by the Los Angeles Times.  "The Mothers" follows a group of teenagers tangled in love affairs and a secret pregnancy, and explores how they grapple with those realities as adults.

Bennett grew up in southern California, and started writing the novel while still in high school. "The book changed a lot over the years," she told Publishers Weekly. "I was growing up as I was writing it."

Selected by Jacqueline Woodson

Yaa Gyasi, "Homegoing"

Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Ala., and she mines both countries' painful histories in "Homegoing." The novel begins with two sisters who never meet: Effia and Esi are born just a few years apart in eighteenth-century Ghana, but the slave trade and the flow of history keep them apart. The book follows their descendants, jumping down one branch in the family tree every chapter until it reaches modern times.

Selected by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Greg Jackson, "Prodigals"

The New York Times praised the writing in Greg Jackson's collection of short stories as "so bold and perceptive that it delivers a contact high." Jackson's stories satirize privilege and wealth, from the lawyer who finds a homeless girl living in her beach home to a journalist who visits a reclusive tennis star's estate in France.

Selected by Lauren Groff

S. Li, "Transoceanic Lights"

"Transoceanic Lights" is perhaps the biggest surprise on the "5 Under 35" list, and it's the only book published by a small press. It follows a family of Chinese immigrants struggling to adjust to life in the U.S.

The story line parallels Li's own history: H left China when he was five. Li earned a medical degree before publishing his first novel, putting him in the ranks of many other doctors-turned-writers, including Abraham Verghese and Ethan Canin.

Selected by Karen Bender

Thomas Pierce, "Hall of Small Mammals"

Publishers Weekly called Thomas Pierce's short story collection "compulsively addictive and delightfully strange." (It was also one of my favorite books of last year.)

Pierce was born and raised in South Carolina. You can listen to him read from the story "Shirley Temple III," about a miniature mammoth brought back from extinction, on The Dinner Party Download.

Selected by Amity Gaige