Xhenet Aliu

And yet what’s so inherently limiting about the prospect of a working-class character? I know from experience that people in subsidized housing, who work in factories, who raise kids alone have lived experiences that are as rich and painful and joyful and shared and individual as any other demographic in this country.

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection

center for fiction first novel prize longlist




The unforgettable mother and daughter at the center of Brass are as bright and tough as the metal itself, and Xhenet Aliu depicts their parallel journeys with equal parts grit and tenderness. A fierce, big-hearted, unflinching debut.
— Celeste Ng
From its opening page, ‘Brass’ simmers with anger–the all too real byproduct of working hard for not enough, of being a woman in a place where women have little value of getting knocked down one too many times. But when the simmer breaks into a boil, Aliu alchemizes that anger into love, and in doing so creates one of the most potent dramatizations of the bond between mother and daughter that I’ve ever read.
The New York Times Book Review
Rage and hilarity form a dynamic symbiosis in Aliu’s debut novel, a stinging mother-and-daughter duet…Aliu is spectacularly funny and deeply insightful. With all-the-way-live characters, vigorous observation, combative dialogue, bravado metaphors, and ninja parsing of social class, immigrant struggles, bad behavior, and stubborn hope, Aliu has created a boldly witty and astute inquiry into the nature-versus-nurture debate, the inheritance of pain, and the dream of transcendence.
Booklist Starred Review

Xhenet Aliu is the author of  the novel Brass (Random House, 2018), which O Magazine noted as  “the arrival of a writer whose work will stand the test of time.” It was long-listed for the 2018 Center for Fiction First Book Prize, and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. Her debut fiction collection, Domesticated Wild Things (University of Nebraska Press, 2013)  won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction. Aliu’s writing has appeared in Glimmer Train, Hobart, American Short Fiction, Lenny, LitHub, Buzzfeed, The New York Times, and elsewhere. She has received multiple scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, and a fellowship from the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, among other awards, including a special mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology. She also wrote the introduction to a book of photography by Tema Stauffer entitled , Upstate (Daylight Books).

 Aliu’s work examines the lives of the poor and working class, and working class women in particular. When asked about this theme in her work, Aliu notes, “When I first started writing seriously, I was panicked because I thought a person like me, with no pedigree and not a cosmopolitan bone in my body, had no stories to tell. I didn’t think people wanted to read about things like poor and working-class people, recent immigrants who weren’t success stories, post-industrial factory towns, because I so infrequently encountered them myself as a reader. Eventually I realized that was exactly the reason I was writing this story.”

A native of Waterbury, Connecticut, whose brass industry attracted large waves of Eastern European immigrants before the demise of the factories in the 1970s and ’80s, she was born to an Albanian father and a Lithuanian American mother. She now lives in Athens, Georgia, and works as an academic librarian.



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