blackbirdonline journalSpring 2022  Vol. 21  No. 1

Introduction and Table of Contents

spacer Raven Leilani
   from Luster

A Conversation with Raven Leilani

Ty Phelps
   Review | Luster by Raven Leilani

  A link to Blackbird’s “Cabell First Novelist Award Reading Loop” menu appears at the bottom of every page of related content. You may also return to this menu at any time by visiting Features. 

Raven Leilani won the 2021 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for Luster (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020). In addition to the Cabell Award, Leilani’s novel earned the 2020 Kirkus Prize, the 2020 NBCC John Leonard Prize, the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and the 2021 L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize.

The Cabell First Novelist Award, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2021, honors an exceptional debut novel published in the previous calendar year. On November 10, 2021, the Cabell Library hosted a celebration with Leilani, who read an excerpt of her book. Virginia Commonwealth University also organized a panel discussion featuring her agent, Ellen Levine, her editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Jenna Johnson, and VCU’s moderator, Dr. Grace D. Gipson. The First Novelist Award Reading Loop includes an excerpt of Luster, a transcript of Leilani’s Q&A session with VCU MFA students, and a review of her novel by the Cabell First Novelist Award Fellow, Ty Phelps.

The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, which is presented under the auspices of Virginia Commonwealth University’s MFA program in creative writing, was created by Tom De Haven and Laura Browder to celebrate VCU’s inaugural year-long novel workshop, the first of its kind in the nation. Initial funding for the award was provided by VCU alumnus and novelist David Baldacci. The award was named for James Branch Cabell, a prominent Richmond writer who died in 1958 and whose papers are collected in the VCU library that bears his name.

The Cabell First Novelist Award is presented on behalf of VCU’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. Sponsors include the James Branch Cabell Library Associates, VCU Libraries, the VCU Department of English, Barnes & Noble @ VCU, and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.  end