My colleagues and I are excited to share the news that West Virginia University Press’s book The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is one of five finalists for the National Book Award in fiction. Author Deesha Philyaw will be part of the finalists’ reading hosted by the New School on November 10, and the awards ceremony itself—referred to by former emcee Mika Brzezinski and others as “the Oscars without money”—will be held on November 18. Both events will be livestreamed, and I hope you’ll consider joining the remote festivities.
I don’t think it overstates things to say that this is the biggest development in our press’s history, and the wider world has taken notice. As a headline from the Washington Post puts it, the “finalists are a strikingly fresh group,” and Vox goes further, noting that “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies comes from West Virginia University Press, meaning we get the unusual sight of a small university press book in the fiction finals.” I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with Publishers Weekly about publishing a finalist, and about how Deesha’s book—a widely praised work by one of the region’s most highly regarded Black writers—fits into our broader publishing program at WVU. News of our book’s inclusion in the awards cohort is also reported by the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere—all signs, I think, of WVU Press’s wide-reaching public engagement on behalf of our university and state.
I’m deeply grateful to Deesha, to the press’s board and small staff, and to all of you for your support as we continue to grow.
Thanks and all best wishes,