Charmaine Craig Named to 2017 National Book Awards Longlist in Fiction

UCR’s Craig, an assistant professor of creative writing, earned the prestigious nomination for her May 2017 novel, “Miss Burma”

A photo of Charmaine Craig and her novel "Miss Burma"

Charmaine Craig’s novel “Miss Burma” has been added to the 2017 National Book Awards Longlist in Fiction.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — A University of California, Riverside scholar is in the running for one of the country’s most prestigious literary awards.

Last week, the New York City-based National Book Foundation included Charmaine Craig’s novel “Miss Burma” on the 2017 National Book Awards Longlist in Fiction. Craig, an assistant professor of creative writing at UCR, joins nine other novelists in this year’s pool of fiction nominees, the winner of which will be announced during a mid-November ceremony.

“It has always been my hope that any recognition the novel receives will lead to more people understanding Burma’s long struggle with racism and the West’s ongoing part in that story,” Craig said. “But this is also a personal and family story; it has been very moving to see my late mother’s face on the book jacket among the longlisted covers.”

Published in May by Grove Atlantic, “Miss Burma” is based on the lives of Craig’s grandparents and mother, a two-time pageant queen who later became a leader of Burma’s mid-20th-century Karen resistance during the country’s long-running civil war.

As members of a heavily persecuted ethnic minority group, many Karen (pronounced kuh-REN) were forced to flee their home country of Burma, now known as Myanmar, following years of military attacks. They now estimate their worldwide population at 10 million, and Craig said her novel has resonated particularly strongly among refugee communities.

Prior to receiving the National Book Foundation honor, “Miss Burma” was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, an Indie Next selection, and an Amazon Best of the Month Editors’ Pick in Literature & Fiction.

The first installment of the annual National Book Awards (NBA) was held in 1950. Its honorees — William Carlos Williams, Nelson Algren, and Ralph L. Rusk — accepted their awards from Eleanor Roosevelt; since then, the roster of top fiction award recipients has included William Faulkner, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, and Alice Walker.

To be eligible for the fiction award, a book must be written by an American author and submitted by an American publisher. A rotating panel of five expert judges — some published writers and previous NBA winners — combs through each year’s selection of several hundred submissions, gradually narrowing the pool to just 10 entrants: the longlist.

In October, the longlist will be further trimmed to five finalists, each of whom will receive $1,000 and a medal. The overall winner will take home a grand prize of $10,000 and a bronze sculpture commemorating the occasion.

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