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Rachel Kushner Makes The Man Booker Shortlist For ‘The Mars Room’

The 2018 Man Booker Prize announced on Thursday, September 20 that Rachel Kushner has made the short list for her novel “The Mars Room.”

Kushner’s book follows Romy Hall, a woman serving two consecutive life sentences in a California correctional facility. “The Mars Room” was lauded for its unsentimental portrait of prison life and its dark humor.

This isn’t the first time Kushner has received awards buzz. Both of her previous novels, 2013’s “The Flamethrowers” and 2008’s “Telex from Cuba” were finalists for a National Book Award.

A native of Eugene, OR and later San Francisco, Kushner is one of two Americans nominated this year along with Richard Powers for his book “The Overstory,” about activists trying to conserve a tract of virgin forest.

As The New York Times reports, until 2013, when it was ruled that any book written in English could be up for the award, Yankees were not eligible for the Man Booker, and their late inclusion has been the cause of some upsets. The winners of the past two years, George Saunders in 2017 for his first novel “Lincoln in the Bardo” and Paul Beatty in 2016 for “The Sellout,” are both American. Authors Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood, who praised Kushner’s book, have since voiced their objection to the rule change.

Also on the list: Esi Edugyan’s “Washington Black” about an escaped slave from a Barbados plantation; Anna Burns’ “The Milkman” which depicts The Troubles in Ireland through the eyes of a young girl; and Daisy Johnson’s “Everything Under” about an unconventional mother-daughter reunion. At 27 Johnson is the youngest author to be shortlisted in the Man Booker’s history. Also making history is Robin Robertson, whose book “The Long Take” is the first novel written in verse to be nominated.

Since writing “The Mars Room” Kushner has been using her platform to push a message of prison reform, telling the Financial Times there is “no redemption” in the current system. The winner of the Man Booker will be announced on October 16.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at [email protected].


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