The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing

  • For an outstanding debut work by a first-generation American author

  • Winner receives $10,000 and publication by Restless Books

  • To be awarded for fiction and nonfiction in alternating years

  • Fiction submission open Fall 2017

  • The 2016 winner is Deepak Unnikrishnan for his novel Temporary People. Read more here.



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 dedication 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 present The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. We are looking for extraordinary unpublished submissions from emerging writers of sharp, culture-straddling writing that addresses identity in a global age.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Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing [hereafter referred to as “the Prize”] alternates yearly between accepting unpublished fiction and nonfiction submissions. 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 a 25,000-word sample 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 45,000 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, 2016 until February 28, 2017.



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. 


The 2017 Judges


Anjali Singh started her career in publishing in 1996 as a literary scout. Most recently Editorial Director at Other Press, she has also worked as an editor at Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Vintage Books. She is best known for having championed Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis after stumbling across it on a visit to Paris. She has always been drawn to the thrill of discovering new writers, and among the literary novelists whose careers she helped launch are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Samantha Hunt, and Saleem Haddad. Some of her editorial non-fiction projects include Baz Dreisinger's Incarceration Nations, Diana Abu-Jaber's The Language of Baklava, Kathy Rich's Dreaming in Hindi, Minal Hajratwala's Leaving India, Nuha al-Radi's Baghdad Diaries, and Igort's The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks. She is currently a literary agent at Ayesha Pande Literary, where she recently sold the YA graphic novel, Jabs by Sherine Hamdy and Myra El-Mir, the coming-of-age story of a Muslim-American girl, to Dial Books for Young Readers. She is a member of the International Committee of the Brooklyn Book Festival.


Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and the publisher of Restless Books. An award-winning essayist, translator, and cultural commentators, his best-selling titles include On Borrowed Words, Spanglish, Love and Language, A Most Imperfect Union, El Iluminado, and Quixote.



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.


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