PEN America Literary Awards Finalists Announced
January 25, 2019
PEN America has released its list of finalists for this year’s cycle of book awards. The 2019 PEN America Literary Awards will award over $370,000 to writers and translators across eleven different categories. According to PEN America, the Literary Awards began in 1963, and have since “honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across diverse genres, including fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and drama.” A final winner will be chosen from a pool of five finalists in each of the eleven categories. Poets Ada Limón, José Olivarez, and Jenny Xie, fiction writers Tommy Orange, Ling Ma, and Helen DeWitt, and nonfiction writers Shane Bauer, Eliza Griswold, and Dunya Mikhail are among the many writers selected as finalists. The winners will be celebrated at a ceremony on February 26 at New York University’s Skirball Center.
Here are this year’s finalists for the PEN America Literary Awards, by category:
PEN/Jean Stein Book Award
For a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact.
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black (Mariner Books)
Ada Limón, The Carrying: Poems (Milkweed Editions)
José Olivarez, Citizen Illegal (Haymarket Books)
Richard Powers, The Overstory: A Novel (W.W. Norton & Company)
Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir (Random House)
PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection
To an author whose debut collection of short stories published in 2018 represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.
Chaya Bhuvaneswar, White Dancing Elephants (Dzanc Books)
Jamel Brinkley, A Lucky Man (Graywolf Press)
Helen DeWitt, Some Trick (New Directions)
Akil Kumarasamy, Half Gods (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Will Mackin, Bring Out the Dog (Random House)
PEN/Hemingway Award for a Debut Novel
For an exceptional debut novel published in 2018.
Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater (Grove Press)
Meghan Kenny, The Driest Season (W.W. Norton & Company)
Ling Ma, Severance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Tommy Orange, There There (Alfred A. Knopf)
Nico Walker, Cherry (Alfred A. Knopf)
PEN Open Book Award
To an exceptional book-length work of any genre by an author of color, published in the United States in 2018.
Shauna Barbosa, Cape Verdean Blues (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Tyrese Coleman, How to Sit: A Memoir in Stories and Essays (Mason Jar Press)
Ángel García, Teeth Never Sleep (University of Arkansas Press)
Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Heads of the Colored People (Atria)
Jenny Xie, Eye Level (Graywolf Press)
PEN Translation Prize
For a book-length translation of prose from any language into English published in 2018.
Bernardo Atxaga, Nevada Days (Graywolf Press)
Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa
Négar Djavadi, Disoriental (Europa Editions)
Translated from the French by Tina Kover
Asli Erdogan, The Stone Building and Other Places (City Lights)
Translated from the Turkish by Sevinç Türkkan
Hanne Ørstavik, Love (Archipelago Books)
Translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken
Domenico Starnone, Trick (Europa Editions)
Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri
PEN Award for Poetry in Translation
For a book-length translation of poetry from any language into English published in 2018.
Ahmed Bouanani, The Shutters (New Directions)
Translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
Jacek Dehnel, Aperture (Zephyr Press)
Translated from the Polish by Karen Kovacik
Juan Gelman, Today (co•im•press)
Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Rose Bradford
Luljeta Lleshanaku, Negative Space (New Directions)
Translated from the Albanian by Ani Gjika
Henri Michaux, A Certain Plume (NYRB)
Translated from the French by Richard Sieburth
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
For a book of essays published in 2018 that exemplifies the essay form.
Jabari Asim, We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival (Picador)
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Brian Phillips, Impossible Owls (FSG Originals)
Zadie Smith, Feel Free (Penguin Press)
Michelle Tea, Against Memoir (Feminist Press)
PEN/Bograd Weld Prize for Biography
For a distinguished biography published in 2018.
Andrea Barnet, Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World (Ecco)
Mark Eisner, Neruda: The Poet’s Calling (Ecco)
Lauren Hilgers, Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown (Crown Publishing)
Imani Perry, Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry (Beacon Press)
Joshua Rivkin, Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly (Melville House)
PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction
To honor a distinguished book of general nonfiction published in 2017 or 2018.
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Shane Bauer, American Prison (Penguin Press)
Eliza Griswold, Amity and Prosperity (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Dunya Mikhail, The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq (New Directions Publishing)
Bernice Yeung, In a Day’s Work (The New Press)
PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing
For a book that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience.
Vince Beiser, The World in a Grain (Riverhead)
Andrea Buchanan, The Beginning of Everything (Pegasus Books)
Ben Goldfarbb, Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter (Chelsea Green)
Lauren Slater, Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds (Little, Brown and Company)
Carl Zimmer, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh (Dutton Books)
PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing
To honor a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2018.
Howard Bryant, The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism (Beacon Press)
Jane Leavy, The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created (Harper)
Rowan Ricardo Phillips, The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
David Roberts, Limits of the Known (W.W. Norton)
Albert Samaha, Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner City (Public Affairs)
Photo Credit: PEN America