The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing

  • To be awarded for fiction and nonfiction in alternating years
  • Nonfiction submissions accepted September through December, 2016
  • Fiction submission will open in the fall of 2017
  • Winner receives $10,000 and publication by Restless Books


The ethos of America is defined by its immigrants. Their stories have always been an essential component of the nation’s cultural consciousness, from Isaac Bashevis Singer to Jhumpa Lahiri, from Jacob Riis to Maxine Hong Kingston. In novels, short stories, memoirs, and works of journalism, immigrants have shown us what resilience and family devotion we’re capable of, and have expanded our sense of what it means to be American. In these times of intense xenophobia, it is more important than ever that these stories reach the broadest possible audience.

With that in mind, we are proud to announce the first Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. We are looking for extraordinary unpublished submissions from emerging writers of sharp, culture-straddling writing that addresses American identity in a global age. Each year, a distinguished panel of judges will select a winning manuscript to be published by Restless Books. We can’t wait to read what the new voices of America have to say, and to share it with the world. 

—Ilan Stavans, publisher

Submissions guidelines and eligibility


The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing [hereafter referred to as “the Prize”] will alternate yearly between accepting unpublished fiction and nonfiction submissions, beginning with fiction in 2015. Fiction submissions can take the form of a novel or a collection of short stories. Nonfiction submissions can take the form of a memoir, a collection of essays, or a book-length work of narrative nonfiction.

Fiction manuscripts must be complete. Nonfiction submissions must consist of either a complete manuscript, or 100 sample pages plus a detailed proposal that includes a synopsis and an annotated table of contents. All submissions must be in English (translations welcome). 

Candidates must be first-generation residents of the United States. “First-generation” can refer either to people born in another country who relocated to the U.S., or to American-born residents whose parents were born elsewhere.

Fiction candidates must not have previously published a work of fiction with a US publishing house. Nonfiction candidates must not have previously published a book of nonfiction with a US publishing house. We encourage applicants to look at the other books Restless has released and previous contest winners to get a sense of our aesthetic.

We will accept only one submission per candidate per submission period, and submissions must be under the author’s real name, not under a pseudonym. Agented submissions are welcome.

Candidates may not submit the same manuscript for the Prize in subsequent years unless specifically invited by Restless.

Restless reserves the right to invite writers to submit for the Prize.

Restless reserves the right to consider any Prize submission for publication.

Submitted manuscripts may be simultaneously under consideration for publication by other publishing houses. Once a manuscript has been selected as the winner of the Prize, Restless will contact the author and ask that the manuscript be withdrawn from consideration elsewhere. A publishing contract between the winning author and Restless Books must be signed before the winner is announced.

* Please note that while Restless Books welcomes all submissions for the Prize, we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts for our publishing program.


The Prize


The winner will receive a $10,000 advance and publication by Restless Books in print and digital editions. We expect to work closely with the winner and provide editorial guidance.


Required materials


Candidates are asked to submit a CV and a one-page cover letter as the first pages of their manuscript. The cover letter should address the candidate’s background as a writer, experience as an immigrant, and inspiration for the submitted work.

Restless will accept only electronic submissions by way of our submissions manager. The manuscript should be a PDF or Word file (.doc and .docx), and the text should be double-spaced, in twelve-point font, and with numbered pages. Fiction manuscripts must be a minimum of forty-five thousand words. Nonfiction samples must be at least 25,000 words. 

There is no fee to submit a manuscript for consideration.


Submissions period


Submissions will be accepted from September 1 until December 31, 2016.




Restless will accept open submissions in addition to soliciting nominations from authors and professionals in the field.  The Restless editorial staff will review submissions and recommend a shortlist to the judges, who will select the finalists and winner. 


Frequently Asked Questions


I have published in English academic books or books not in the category the prize selects for this year. Am I still eligible to submit?

Yes, you are still eligible to submit. Eligible submitters may have published books in English outside of the category the prize selects during the current year. (For example, the published author of an academic book could submit a novel during a year the prize accepts fiction.)


I am American-born and one of my parents is foreign-born, the other American-born. Do I qualify as a first-generation immigrant for the purposes of this competition?

Unfortunately, no. Only foreign-born writers relocated to the U.S. or American-born writers with both parents born elsewhere qualify as first-generation immigrants for the purposes of the competition.


I have a book that doesn’t qualify for the prize but that I’d like to place with Restless Books. Does Restless have open submissions and can I send my proposal?

No, Restless does not accept unsolicited submissions outside of the Prize for New Immigrant Writing at this time.


Can I submit a book outside the submissions period ?

No, but submissions will open in September 2016, with details published here in summer 2016. Please do not contact us with questions until that time.



The 2015 Fiction Judges

Maaza Mengiste is an Ethiopian-American writer. She was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and lived in Nigeria and Kenya before settling in the United States. Her debut novel, the award-winning Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, was named one of the ten best contemporary African books by The Guardian. Mengiste is a Fulbright Scholar and World Literature Today’s 2013 Puterbaugh Fellow. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York TimesLettre InternationaleGrantaCallalooThe Granta Anthology of the African Short Story, among other places, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She was runner-up for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and a finalist for a Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, an NAACP Image Award, and an Indies Choice Book of the Year Award in Adult Debut. Mengiste writes fiction and nonfiction dealing with migration, the intersections of photography and war, and forgotten moments in world history. She has completed a documentary project, Girl Rising, with 10x10 Films, that focuses on girls’ education globally and features the voices of several noted actors, including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Alicia Keys, and Cate Blanchett.

Javier Molea has stretched his title as bookseller to its absolute limits. In the process, he has positioned himself firmly at the crux of a burgeoning New York Spanish-language literary community. On the side, Molea has launched a bilingual publishing company, DiazGrey Editores, showcasing titles by Lina Meruane and Enrique Winter (and looking forward to a new book of Alejandro Zambra poems in the fall). Molea’s most recent project is La Universidad Desconocida, a series of writing and literature workshops. Originally from Montevideo, Uruguay’s only city, Molea earned an advanced degree in literature from la Universidad de la Republica.

Ilan Stavans is the Publisher of Restless Books and the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. His books include On Borrowed WordsSpanglishDictionary DaysThe Disappearance, and A Critic’s Journey. He has edited The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, the three-volume set Isaac Bashevis Singer: Collected StoriesThe Poetry of Pablo Neruda, among dozens of other volumes. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Chile’s Presidential Medal, and the Jewish Book Award. Stavans’s work, translated into a dozen languages, has been adapted to the stage and screen. He hosted the syndicated PBS television show Conversations with Ilan Stavans. He is a cofounder of the Great Books Summer Program at Amherst, Stanford, and Oxford. 

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