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Yaa Gyasi Makes The National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 List for 2016

Life keeps getting sweeter for Ghanaian-American author Yaa Gyasi.


The 26-year-old Homegoing novelist has been hand-picked for The National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 list for 2016.

Her debut best-selling book that sold for over a million dollars traces the family tree of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi. Esi becomes a slave held captive in the dungeon of the very Cape Coast Castle that Effia resides in with her husband, a British soldier, until she is shipped to America where her descendents will be resigned to a similar fate. Gyasi explores themes such as Ghana’s collusion in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade as well as the unspoken tensions between African-Americans and African immigrants.

Gyasi tells Al Jazeera The Stream’s hosts Femi Oke and Malika Bilalin on Tuesday:

The American dream is still very much denied [to] African-Americans. You still can have access to whole worlds as a black immigrant that you don’t get as African-American. I’ve certainly heard about how when percentages are given about how many black students are in a college, for example, typically there are large percentages of Ghanaians or Nigerians, or Haitians or Jamaicans or whatever, who also make up that group. Does that mean it’s denying African-Americans access to these same spaces? That’s a larger part of this conversation: what do we have access to and what don’t we have access to and what privileges are afforded African immigrants that aren’t afforded [African-Americans].

It’s the 11th year for 5 Under 35, which recognizes the contributions of five fiction writers whose debut work promises to leave an indelible mark on the literary world. Each year, the honorees are selected by a committee comprised of National Book Award Winners and Finalists and those previously honored.

In the case of Gyasi, she was nominated by none other than Between the World and Me author and National Correspondent for The AtlanticTa-Nehisi Coates, who received the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

An invitation-only ceremony will held on November 14 where the distinguished guest of honor will each receive a $1,000 prize.

Big up to Gyasi.

Click here for the full list of the 2016 honorees, and watch Gyasi's conversation with Al Jazeera's The Stream below.

Photo by Meztli Yoalli Rodríguez

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