His debut, If I Survive You, announces Jonathan Escoffery as a skilled chronicler of American life at its most gruesome and hopeful

Jonathan Escoffery is the recipient of the 2020 Plimpton Prize for Fiction, a 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and the 2020 ASME Award for Fiction. His fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, American Short Fiction and Electric Literature, and has been anthologised in The Best American Magazine Writing.  

He received his MFA from the University of Minnesota, is a PhD fellow in the University of Southern California’s PhD in Creative Writing and Literature Program, and in 2021 was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in the Creative Writing Program at Stanford University. His debut, If I Survive You, is shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023. 

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Jonathan Escoffery on writing If I Survive You

It took approximately ten years to write If I Survive You, though there were many long pauses, as I moved homes frequently in search of ways to sustain myself and my writing practice. I don’t write much longhand, but I write a lot in my head and that’s what I did during those pauses. There were 50 or so drafts written.  

I am always in the process of conducting research for my projects, though I do so during the writing process, and not necessarily beforehand. I write toward discovery and typically stop to plot out a story only when I feel particularly stuck, but find that looking back at what’s already on the page can guide me forward as well, because there may be a natural trajectory suggested in the early pages.  

I prefer to write at my desk, on my desktop, to keep as consistent a writing habit as possible. My book was mostly written on my laptop, though, at my desk and at cafes and on trains, and in bed too. Wherever I work, I’m usually surrounded by stacks of books, some of which may have a tangential relationship with what I’m working on.  

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Jonathan Escoffery

An astonishingly assured debut novel, lauded by the panel for its clarity, variety and fizzing prose. As the stories move back and forth through geography and time, we are confronted by the immigrants’ eternal questions: who am I now and where do I belong?

— The Booker Prize 2023 judges on If I Survive You

Alfred Enoch reads from If I Survive You

All nominated books

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery