Tess Gunty

South Bend native earns National Book Award for fiction

Tess Gunty credits her Northwest Indiana upbringing with laying the foundation for the success that was to come.

Tess Gunty
Tess Gunty

The 2015 graduate of the University of Notre Dame earned the National Book Award for fiction for her first novel, “The Rabbit Hutch,” on Nov. 16.

“My writing professors from Notre Dame uprooted my literary preconceptions and planted far better ideas in their place,” Gunty wrote in the book’s acknowledgments. “I cherished their generosity as an undergraduate, and I continue to cherish it now.”

Gunty is a native of South Bend. She majored in English at the University of Notre Dame. While there, she spent a year in France, tutored in the Writing Center, earned a ND Theater Now Award for her play “Taxidermy,” and the Ernest Sandeen Award for her poetry collection “Radish Beds.”

Her book has garnered even more accolades.

“The Rabbit Hutch” earned South Bend native Tess Gunty a National Book Award. (Provided)

In August, booksellers from the UK presented her with the first Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize 2022.

“Our booksellers were mesmerized by the playfulness and psychological precision of Tess Gunty’s stunning debut novel,” the Waterstones website said. “At once brilliantly inventive and compulsively readable, ‘The Rabbit Hutch’ follows a varied and memorable cast of characters, and revolves around an affordable housing complex in a declining post-industrial Rust Belt town.”

The book earned the Barnes & Noble 2022 Discover Prize Winner.

“The Rabbit Hutch announces an extraordinary talent, one of those books that makes you sit up and marvel,” said James Daunt, CEO of Barnes & Noble, in a press release. “Tess Gunty’s writing is mesmerizing, spinning her brilliant insights into a novel that is utterly compelling.”

It also is listed as an IndieNext Pick by the American Booksellers Association.

Gunty will return to South Bend and Notre Dame for two events:

  • “From South Bend to Vacca Vale: A Conversation with Tess Gunty,” Nov. 30, Eck Center Auditorium
  • “An Evening with Tess Gunty: The Rabbit Hutch,” Dec. 1, St. Joseph County Public Library’s main branch, 304 S. Main St., South Bend

“The Rabbit Hutch” was published by Knopf and Oneworld Publications. Gunty has an MFA in creative writing from New York University, where she was a Lillian Vernon Fellow. She lives in Los Angeles.


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