The PEN American Center recently announced their final nominees for their flagship literary award, and we’re proud to represent three incredible finalists across a variety of genres. In ambitious works of nonfiction, biography, and poetry, our speakers’ work is recognized as furthering PEN’s dual mission of fighting for freedom of expression among writers and advancing the art of writing and public discourse. Learn more about the finalists below!
PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Finalist
Ta-Nehisi Coates’s bestselling book of essays is a powerful reflection on the presidency of Barack Obama and a clear-eyed, unsparing appraisal of our current political moment. It has been nominated for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, which honors books across genres that “have broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence.” Coates previously won the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for Between the World and Me.
PEN Open Book Award Finalist
Erika L. Sánchez’s debut poetry collection was nominated for the PEN Open Book Award, designed to honor the work of writers of color. Acclaimed by The Washington Post and The New York Times, among others, Lessons on Expulsion vividly illustrates the lives of women and Mexican immigrants.
PEN/Bograd Weld Prize for Biography Finalist
Past Winners – PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about America’s history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.
Past Winners – PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction
Past Winners – PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
2017: Patient H.M. - Luke Dittrich
This propulsive, haunting journey into the life of the most studied human research subject of all time, the amnesic known as Patient H.M., is a story that has much to teach us about our relentless pursuit of knowledge.
Past Winners – PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure German princess who became one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.
Past Winners – PEN/Fusion Emerging Writer Award
2016: Crux - Jean Guerrero
A daughter’s quest to find, understand, and save her charismatic, troubled, and elusive father, a self-mythologizing Mexican immigrant who travels across continents–and across the borders between imagination and reality–fleeing real and invented persecutors. The manuscript for Crux received the award in 2016 and the book will be released in summer 2018.
Past Winners – PEN/Hemingway Award
1997: Ocean of Words - Ha Jin
In Ocean of Words, the Chinese writer Ha Jin explores the life of illiterate Chinese peasants with breathtaking concision and humanity.
1996: Native Speaker - Chang-rae Lee
Native Speaker, focuses on author Chang-rae Lee’s complex and compelling character Henry Park, who has spent his entire life trying to become a true American—a native speaker. The book follows Henry as the essence of his adopted country continues to elude him and his Korean heritage seems to drift further and further away.
Past Winners – PEN/New England
Past Winners – PEN/Faulkner Award
2017: Behold the Dreamers - Imbolo Mbue
A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream— Behold the Dreamers is the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.
In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, acclaimed novelist Karen Joy Fowler showcases her most accomplished work to date in this tale of loving but fallible people whose well-intentioned actions lead to heartbreaking consequences.
Ha Jin’s masterful novel casts a searchlight into a forgotten corner of modern history, focusing on the experiences of Chinese soldiers held in U.S. POW camps during the Korean War. As with all of Jin’s writing, it is both vivid in its historical detail and profound in its imaginative empathy.
In Waiting, Ha Jin portrays the life of Lin Kong, a dedicated doctor torn by his love for two women: one who belongs to the New China of the Cultural Revolution, the other to the ancient traditions of his family’s village. With wisdom, restraint, and empathy for all his characters, he vividly reveals the complexities and subtleties of a world and culture undergoing immense change.
Past Winners – PEN/Robert Bingham Award
Past Winners – PEN/Faulker Malamud Award
2000: Drown - Junot Díaz
A coming-of-age story of unparalleled power, Drown introduced the world to Junot Díaz’s exhilarating talents, marking him as one of the preeminent writers of our time.
Past Winners – PEN USA Award for Research Nonfiction
The extraordinary New York Times bestselling account of James Garfield’s rise from poverty to the American presidency, and the dramatic history of his assassination and legacy, from bestselling author of The River of Doubt, Candice Millard.
2007: The Looming Tower - Lawrence Wright
A sweeping narrative history of the events that led to the tragedy of 9/11, and a groundbreaking look at the people, plans and failures that culminated in the assault on America.
2002: Ghost Soldiers - Hampton Sides
During the end days of World War II, 121 U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp. Hampton Sides vividly re-creates this daring raid, offering a minute-by-minute narration that unfolds alongside intimate portraits of the prisoners and their lives in the camp.
Past Winners – PEN/Jerard Fund Award
Past Winners – PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award
Past Winners – PEN/Nora Magid Award For Magazine Editing
Past Winners – PEN/O. Henry Award
Elizabeth Strout won the award for her short story, “Snow Blind”.
Kelly Link won the award for her short story, “The Summer People”.
Lauren Groff won the award for her short story, “Eyewall”.
Junot Díaz won the award for his short story, “Wildwood”.
Ha Jin won the award for his short story, “The House Behind the Weeping Cherry”.