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Yalie novelists make Granta list

Granta has released its once-in-a-decade list of the Best of Young British Novelists, and it features two Yalies: Benjamin Markovits '96 and Taiye Selasi '01. The award has helped to launch the careers of writers like Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, and Kazuo Ishiguro.

A former professional basketball player, Markovits has published six novels, including a trilogy about Lord Byron. After graduating from Yale, Markovits studied Wordsworth and Byron at Oxford. A passion for nineteenth-century literature seems to be in Markovits's genes: his sister Stefanie Markovits ’94, ’01PhD, teaches Romantic and Victorian literature at Yale. Commenting on this commonality in the Independent, he says: “Well, we're not a very histrionic family. I always thought that much less happened in life than in literature.” (Their brother Daniel Markovits ’91, ’00JD, by the way, is a professor at the Law School, and Stefanie's husband Benjamin Polak is Yale's new provost. Small world.)

Selasi has only recently published her debut novel, Ghana Must Go. She also studied at Oxford, earning a degree in international relations, before working on Wall Street. When she published an essay on the “brain drain” Africa experienced during the 1960s and ’70s, it was read by none other than Toni Morrison, to whom Selasi confessed her secret literary ambitions. Morrison gave Selasi a deadline, and what resulted was a published short story, a contract with Andrew Wylie, and a two-book deal with Penguin. In an interview with the Toronto Globe and Mail, Selasi firmly declared herself “not a normal literary lady”: “I’m wearing electric blue shoes!” Like Markovits, Selasi also had a sister who attended Yale. In a Wall Street Journal column, she says they were raised by a “panther mom.”

Excerpts from all the writers' upcoming work will be published in the spring issue of Granta, where another (fictional) Yalie will appear: the protagonist of Markovits's novel, You Don't Have to Live Like This, is a Lousiana Cajun trying to find his place at the university.

Filed under Benjamin Markovits, Taiye Selasi, Granta
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