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Sixteenth Annual Award
The Wangs vs. the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
By Jade Chang
The Wangs vs. the World is a twist on two quintessentially American stories—the road trip and the rags to riches immigrant tale. Chang's outstanding debut novel opens with patriarch Charles Wang's fall from grace. His once mighty cosmetics empire belongs to the bank, along with the family's beautiful Bel-Air mansion and everything in it. His trip across the country is not a quest, but a journey to collect his teenage children dumped from elite schools they can no longer afford and seek refuge at his daughter's home on the opposite coast. The story is told from from the alternating perspectives of Charles, his second wife Barbra, and his three children. Charles is brash and impulsive, Barbra bitter and withdrawn. High schooler Grace is a successful style blogger; college student Andrew dreams of being a comedian, and eldest daughter Saina is a successful Manhattan artist now in hiding at a rambling house in the Catskills after a show that offended the entire art world. Chang writes with humor and an eye for the ridiculous. She manages to do the important work of exploring identity and upending Chinese-American stereotypes while deftly dissecting the disastrous financial crisis of 2008. Both hilarious and heartrending, The Wangs vs. the World tells the story of a family scraped clean of everything they hold dear, and their brave scramble to salvage their lives.
A New York Times Editor's Choice and also chosen as one of Amazon's Best Books of 2016, The Wangs vs. the World received critical acclaim. Chang, says The Atlantic, "goes for broke with a comic ending that showcases the reconciliation of a father and his children, of dreams and reality, of Old World and New." NPR calls the debut novel "unrelentingly fun, but it's also raw and profane—a story of fierce pride, fierce anger, and even fiercer love." The New York Times says, "In Chang's compassionate and bright-eyed novel, she proves that struggling with [Chinese-American] identity can at least be funny and strange, especially when you struggle together with family."
Jade Chang has worked as an arts and culture journalist and editor for news venues and publications like the BBC, Metropolis, Glamour, and The Los Angeles Times Magazine. She was recently an editor at Goodreads. Her first paying job after college was as a researcher for the J. Peterman catalog. She is the recipient of a Sundance Arts Journalist fellowship, the AIGA/Winterhouse Design Criticism Award, and a Squaw Valley Writers Workshop scholarship. She lives in Los Angeles.
Judges: Angela Flournoy, winner of the 2016 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for Turner House; Hasanthika Sirisena, associate fiction editor of West Branch magazine and author of the short story collection The Other One; and Yelena Akhtiorskaya, recipient of the Posen Fellowship in fiction and author of the novel Panic in a Suitcase
Finalists: Chad Dundas for Champion of the World (G.P. Putnam's Sons) and Margaret Wappler for Neon Green (The Unnamed Press)