2017 PEN America Literary Awards Celebrate Books that Transcend Borders

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Arielle Anema, Literary Awards Manager: +1.646.779.4813, [email protected]
Sarah Edkins, Director of Communications: +1.646.779.4830, [email protected]

NEW YORK–PEN America today announced the winners of its 2017 Literary Awards, including playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose life and play inspired the Oscar-nominated film Moonlight; novelist, essayist, and critic Aleksandar Hemon for his passion-project oral history of Bosnian migrants and their stories of displacement; British novelist Helen Oyeyemi for her first short story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (Riverhead); and sociologist Matthew Desmond for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, a groundbreaking exploration of the devastating effects of rising housing costs on urban communities.

“Literature’s ability to find common ground for diverse points of view has been the engine of PEN America’s work for nearly a century. As global and national political discourse turn toward exclusion, PEN America continues to uphold the humanities’ place in fostering coherent dialogue,” said PEN America President Andrew Solomon. “Many of this year’s honored books explore the social themes that are at the surface of our nation’s consciousness. The PEN America Literary Awards grant us a critical opportunity to recognize the literary excellence of these works and to celebrate the varied experiences of their creators.”

The winners for all 2017 awards can be found below or on PEN America’s website. Winners of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature, PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and will be announced live at the 2017 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony, to be hosted by actor and comedian Aasif Mandvi at The New School’s John L. Tishman Auditorium in Manhattan on March 27. Given the themes of migration, social justice, and tolerance that permeate this year’s award-winning works, the ceremony will focus on the power of books to foster dialogue between communities. Under the title “The 2017 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony: Books Across Borders,” the evening event will spotlight international and immigrant experiences that infuse and inspire American literature.

The 2017 PEN America Literary Awards will be the biggest yet, conferring 23 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes totaling nearly $315,000 across a broad range of categories including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, translation, and more. Since 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across a diverse array of genres and styles, celebrating both renowned and emerging authors and translators and helping to advance the careers of many beloved writers, including Jonathan Safran Foer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Joshua Ferris.


PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction ($10,000): To an author of a distinguished book of general nonfiction published in 2015 or 2016, possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues.

JUDGES: Julia Angwin, Rich Benjamin, Jeff Biggers, Charles Duhigg, Marie Mutsuki Mockett, Lizzie Stark, and Jessica Valenti

WINNER: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown/Penguin Random House), Matthew Desmond

PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Awards ($7,500 and $2,500): Three awards which honor a Master American Dramatist, American Playwright in Mid-Career, and Emerging American Playwright.

JUDGES: Oskar Eustis, Michael C. Hall, and Young Jean Lee


Master American Dramatist: Suzan-Lori Parks

American Playwright in Mid-Career: Tarell Alvin McCraney

Emerging American Playwright: Thomas Bradshaw

PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000): For a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of the physical or biological sciences published in 2016.

JUDGES: Emily Anthes, Robin Marantz Henig, Emma Marris, and Amy Ellis Nutt

WINNER: Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets (Random House), Luke Dittrich

PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History ($10,000): For an unpublished literary work of nonfiction that uses oral history to illuminate an event, individual, place or movement.

JUDGES: Gaiutra Bahadur, Helen Epstein, and Dan Kennedy

WINNER: Aleksandar Hemon for How Did You Get Here?: Tales of Displacement

PEN Open Book Award ($5,000): For an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color published in 2016.

JUDGES: Ishmael Beah, Major Jackson, and Bich Minh Nguyen

WINNER: What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House), Helen Oyeyemi

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000): For a distinguished biography published in 2016.

JUDGES: Yunte Huang, Joyce Johnson, and Evelyn C. White

WINNER: Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), Joe Jackson

PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To honor a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2016.

JUDGES: Jay Caspian Kang, Juliet Macur, and David Owen

WINNER: Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA (Portfolio/Penguin Random House), Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss

PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To a writer for a lifetime of writing about sports and its dimensions of character and action.

JUDGES: Pete Hamill, Sally Jenkins, and Michael Sokolove

WINNER: William Nack

PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry ($5,000): For a new and emerging American poet with the promise of further literary achievement.

JUDGES: Camille Dungy, Ada Limón, and Patrick Phillips

WINNER: Natalie Scenters- Zapico for The Verging Cities (Center for Literary Publishing/Colorado State University)

PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship ($5,000): For an author of children’s or young-adult fiction to complete a book-length work-in-progress.

JUDGES: Margarita Engle, Sharyn November, and Polly Shulman

WINNER: Phillippe Diederich for Finding Home at the End of the World (Available for publication)

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000): For a book-length translation of poetry into English published in 2016.

JUDGES: Jennifer Grotz, Kyoo Lee, and Rowan Ricardo Phillips

WINNER: Pearl: A New Verse Translation (Liveright/W.W. Norton & Company) translated from the Middle English by Simon Armitage

PEN Translation Prize ($3,000): For a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2016.

JUDGES: Mara Faye Lethem, Elizabeth Lowe, Jeremy Tiang, Annie Tucker, and Dennis Washburn

WINNER: Angel of Oblivion by Maja Haderlap (Archipelago Books) translated from the German by Tess Lewis

PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing : ($2,500) To a magazine editor whose high literary standards and taste have, throughout his or her career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication he or she edits.

JUDGES: Michael Dumanis, David L. Ulin, and Caitlin McKenna

WINNER: Michael Archer and Joel Whitney for Guernica

PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers ($2,000 to 12 Writers): Recognizing twelve emerging fiction writers for their debut story published in 2016.

JUDGES: Marie-Helene Bertino, Kelly Link, and Nina McConigley


“Galina” (Fifth Wednesday Journal), Angela Ajayi
“The Handler” (Southwest Review), Amber Caron
“Tell Me, Please” (The Common), Emily Chammah
“The Asphodel Meadow” (The Summerset Review), Jim Cole
“Solee” (The Southern Review), Crystal Hana Kim
“The Manual Alphabet” (Fence), Samuel Knights
“Goldhawk” (The Malahat Review), Katherine Magyarody
“A Modern Marriage” (Boston Review), Grace Oluseyi
“1,000-Year-Old Ghosts” (Hyphen Magazine), Laura Chow Reeve
“State Facts for the New Age” (The Rumpus), Amy Sauber
“A Message” (Epiphany: A Literary Journal), Ruth Serven
“Edwin Chase of Nantucket” (Harvard Review), Ben Shattuck

PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000): To support the translation of book-length works into English. PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature ($5,000): To a translator for a work-in-progress of a book-length translation of an Italian work of literary fiction or nonfiction into English.

JUDGES: Tynan Kogane, Edna McCown, Fiona McCrae, Canaan Morse, Idra Novey, Allison Markin Powell, Antonio Romani, Chip Rossetti, Shabnam Nadiya, and Ross Ufberg

Floral Mutter by YA Shi (哑石) translated from the Chinese by Nick Admussen
The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky by Misumi Kubo, translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton
The Palimpsests by Aleksandra Lun, translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer
Felix Austria by Sophia Andrukhovych, translated from the Ukrainian by Vitaly Chernetsky
Mr. by Raoul Schrott, translated from the German by Iain Galbraith
Edinburgh Notebook by Valerie Mejer Caso, translated from the Spanish by Michelle Gil-Montero
The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes
Thirteen Months of Sunrises by Rania Mamoun, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette
The Arab by Pooneh Rohi, translated from the Swedish by Kira Josefsson
I Didn’t Talk by Beatriz Bracher, translated from the Portuguese by Adam Morris
A Parade by Nhã Thuyên, translated from the Vietnamese by Kaitlin Rees
Wûf by Kemal Varol, translated from the Turkish by Dayla Rogers
In Your Name by Mauro Covacich, translated from the Italian by Christopher Tamigi
There’s a Carnival Today by Indra Bahadur Rai, translated from the Nepali by Manjushree Thapa
This Land That Is Like You by Tobie Nathan, translated from the French by Joyce Zonana

PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature:

RECIPIENT: Ithaca Forever by Luigi Malerba, translated from the Italian by Douglas Heise

(The following awards’ winners will be announced live at the 2017 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on March 27.)

PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature ($50,000): To a writer of any genre and any nationality for their body of work.

JUDGES: Aravind Adiga, Ayad Akhtar, Robin Coste Lewis, Jessica Hagedorn, and Thrity Umrigar

PEN/Jean Stein Book Award ($75,000): To recognize a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact.

JUDGES: The judges for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award will serve anonymously and will be announced at a later date.


Known and Strange Things (Random House), Teju Cole

Olio (Wave Books), Tyehimba Jess

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between (Random House), Hisham Matar

Dark Money (Doubleday/Penguin Random House), Jane Mayer

The Underground Railroad (Doubleday/Penguin Random House), Colson Whitehead

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000): To an author whose debut work–a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2016–represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise of a second work of literary fiction.

JUDGES: Jami Attenberg, Tanwi Nandini Islam, Randall Kenan, Hanna Pylväinen, and Akhil Sharma


Insurrections (University Press of Kentucky), Rion Amilcar Scott

We Show What We Have Learned (Lookout Books/UNC Wilmington), Clare Beams

The Mothers (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House), Brit Bennett

Homegoing (Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House), Yaa Gyasi

Hurt People (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), Cote Smith

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): For a book of essays published in 2016 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.

JUDGES: Eula Biss, Kiese Laymon, and Paul Steiger


The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood (Graywolf Press), Belle Boggs

Known and Strange Things (Random House), Teju Cole

A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and The Mind (Simon & Schuster), Siri Hustvedt

The Girls in My Town (University of New Mexico Press), Angela Morales

Becoming Earth (Red Hen Press), Eva Saulitis


The 2017 PEN America Literary Awards are made possible through the generous support of PEN’s many donors: the family of Robert W. Bingham, Fernanda Dau Fisher and the family of Robert J. Dau, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Carl Spielvogel, ESPN, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jean Stein, The Kaplen Foundation, Priscilla and Michael Henry Heim, Phyllis Naylor, the Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater, the Estate of Rochelle Ratner, Dr. Edward O. Wilson and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, James and Cathy Stone, Jacqueline Bograd Weld and Rodman L. Drake, the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation, and Gerald Weales.

PEN America will begin accepting submissions for its 2018 Awards in the spring of 2017. For a list of all 2018 PEN America Literary Awards and information about submission guidelines, please visit PEN.org/awards. For questions about any of the awards, write to [email protected]. For questions about the longlisted titles, upcoming awards announcements, or advertising in the 2017 Ceremony program, please contact Arielle Anema, Literary Awards Manager, at [email protected].


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. PEN.org