On March 20, at a ceremony held at the New York Public Library, author Colson Whitehead was honored with the Young Lions Fiction Award [YLFA] for his novel John Henry Days (Doubleday). Established in 2001, YLFA awards a $10,000 prize to a writer age 35 or younger for a novel or a collection of short stories. Remarkably, this year, all the nominees for YLFA were also Book Sense 76 picks. John Henry Days was a July/August Book Sense 76 pick.
John Henry Days is Whiteheads second novel. The story revolves around the 19th century folk-hero John Henry, a black railroad worker who defeated a steam drill in a contest, but died in the act. Wrapped around this legend is the tale of a modern-day, freeloading, freelance journalist named J. Sutter who is covering the John Henry Days festival in West Virginia. The book won rave reviews from a number of prominent book reviews, including the New York Times Book Review and the Washington Post Book World.
It also received a thumbs-up from independent booksellers. "Absolutely first-rate," said Kevin Ryan, of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, about John Henry Days in the July/August Book Sense 76. "A complex, yet highly entertaining (and occasionally hilarious) yarn
that explores the effects of technological revolutions on the souls and bodies of two black men."
Other finalists for YLFA were, The Muse Asylum by David Zuchlewski (Putnam); The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, by Brady Udall (Norton) -- all July/August Book Sense 76 picks; Paradise Park by Allegra Goodman (Dial Press/Random House), a May/June 76 pick; and Esther Stories by Peter Orner (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin), on the March/April 76 list.
YLFA was created by wthe Young Lions, a membership group at the New York Public Library for library supporters in their 20s and 30s. For more information regarding YLFA, or the Young Lions group, visit www.nypl.org.