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2021 Crook’s Corner Book Prize Longlist

The 2021 Crook’s Corner Book Prize longlist has been announced; this prize awards $5,000 annually to the best debut novel set in the American South.

Included on this year’s longlist is Mesha Maren’s novel, Sugar Run (Algonquin Books).

Mesha was the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is currently an Assistant Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Duke University. She also won the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, sponsored by the North Carolina Writers’ Network.

“Maren’s impressive debut is replete with luminous prose that complements her cast of flawed characters,” raved Publisher’s Weekly.

In 1989, Jodi McCarty is seventeen years old when she’s sentenced to life in prison. She’s released eighteen years later and finds herself at a Greyhound bus stop, reeling from the shock of unexpected freedom. Not yet able to return to her lost home in the Appalachian mountains, she goes searching for someone she left behind, but on the way, she meets and falls in love with Miranda, a troubled young mother. Together, they try to make a fresh start, but is that even possible in a town that refuses to change? Set within the charged insularity of rural West Virginia, Sugar Run is a searing and gritty debut about making a run for another life.

A second author on the longlist has ties to North Carolina: Sion Dayson.

Her novel As a River (Jaded Ibis Press) moves back and forth across decades, evoking the mysterious play of memory as it touches upon shame and redemption, despair and connection. An exploration of family secrets rooted in the turbulent history of the segregated South, As a River is ultimately about our struggles to understand each other, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.

Sion Dayson is an American writer and EFL teacher. Born in New York, raised in North Carolina, and a decade spent in Paris where she acquired French nationality, she now makes her home in Valencia, Spain. Sion has won grants and residencies from the Kerouac House and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, among others. She holds an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

For the complete Crook’s Corner Book Prize longlist, click here.

This year’s final judge is Monique Truong, whose three novels are the national bestseller The Book of Salt (Houghton Mifflin, 2003); the award-winning Bitter in the Mouth (Random House, 2010), set in Boiling Springs, NC; her family’s first hometown in the U.S., and The Sweetest Fruits (Viking Books, 2019).

The prize, now in its eigth year, awards debut novels published the previous year. Regardless of the author’s residence, the book must be set predominantly in the American South, which includes the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Past winners with ties to North Carolina include Wiley Cash (2014); Kim Church (2015); Matthew Griffin (2017); and Devi S. Laskar (2020).

For more about the Crook’s Corner Book Prize, including complete submission guidelines, click here.