Congratulations to the Finalists for the 2018 PEN America Literary Award


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

We Were Eight Years in Power

We Were Eight Years in Power - Ta-Nehisi Coates

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

Lessons on Expulsion

Lessons on Expulsion - Erika L. Sánchez

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


Grant - Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow’s exhaustive and definitive biography of President Ulysses S. Grant is not only the comprehensive story of this historical figure, but also that of a nation reckoning with deep internal divisions and struggling to defend equality and justice.

Past Winners

Past Winners – PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award

Between the World and Me

2016: Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

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

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

2013: Behind the Beautiful Forevers - Katherine Boo

Past Winners – PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

Patient H.M.

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.

Thunder & Lightning

2016: Thunder & Lightning - Lauren Redniss

From the National Book Award finalist Lauren Redniss, author of Radioactive, comes a dazzling fusion of storytelling, visual art, and reportage that grapples with weather in all its dimensions: its danger and its beauty, why it happens and what it means.

Past Winners – PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

2012: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman - Robert K. Massie

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

Ocean of Words

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.

Native Speaker

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

Bastards of the Reagan Era

2016: Bastards of the Reagan Era - Reginald Dwayne Betts

Bastards of the Reagan Era is a challenge, a confrontation of the hard realities that frame America, written by the acclaimed poet Reginald Dwayne Betts.

Past Winners – PEN/Faulkner Award

Behold the Dreamers

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.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

2014: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

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.

War Trash

2005: War Trash - Ha Jin

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.


2000: Waiting - Ha Jin

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

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

2011: Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self - Danielle Evans

An electric debut story collection about mixed-race and African-American teenagers, women, and men struggling to find a place in their families and communities

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.

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges

1999: For the Relief of Unbearable Urges - Nathan Englander

Nathan Englander’s debut was recognized as a stunning collection of work, featuring energized, irreverent, and deliciously inventive stories indicative of his astonishing talent.

Past Winners – PEN USA Award for Research Nonfiction

Destiny of the Republic

2012: Destiny of the Republic - Candice Millard

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.

The Looming Tower

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.

Ghost Soldiers

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.

No Matter How Loud I Shout

1997: No Matter How Loud I Shout - Edward Humes

An award-winning examination of the nation’s largest juvenile criminal justice system in Los Angeles, written by a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist.

Past Winners – PEN/Jerard Fund Award

Stealing Buddha's Dinner

2005: Stealing Buddha's Dinner - Bich Minh Nguyen

Vivid and viscerally powerful, this remarkable memoir about growing up as an immigrant in 1980s America and seeking solace in American food is the work of an original literary voice and an entirely new spin on the classic assimilation story.

Past Winners – PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award

A Thousand Acres

2006: A Thousand Acres - Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley, the author of numerous novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Thousand Acres, received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition for her indelible body of work.

Past Winners – PEN/Nora Magid Award For Magazine Editing

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

2009: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley - Hannah Tinti

An acclaimed author in her own right, whose The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley was named one of the best books of 2017 by outlets like NPR, Hannah Tinti was honored for her work editing the independent literary magazine One Story in 2009.

Past Winners – PEN/O. Henry Award

The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015

2015: The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015 - Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout won the award for her short story, “Snow Blind”.

The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013

2013: The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013 - Kelly Link

Kelly Link won the award for her short story, “The Summer People”.

The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012

2012: The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012 - Lauren Groff

Lauren Groff won the award for her short story, “Eyewall”.

PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009

2009: PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 - Junot Díaz

Junot Díaz won the award for his short story, “Wildwood”.

PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009

2009: PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 - Ha Jin

Ha Jin won the award for his short story, “The House Behind the Weeping Cherry”.

O. Henry Prize Stories 2008

2008: O. Henry Prize Stories 2008 - Ha Jin

Ha Jin won the award for his short story, “The Composer and His Parakeets”.


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