The PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History recognizes a literary work of nonfiction that uses oral history to illuminate an event, individual, place, or movement. The winner receives a $10,000 grant meant to help maintain or complete his or her ongoing project.



Grant Recipients

PEN America has awarded grants to two winning projects to date. You can view the full list of recipients below.

2018 Grant Recipient

Nyssa Chow for Still.Life.
Judges: Keith Gessen and Maria Montoya

This manuscript is not under contract. To request a manuscript excerpt, please contact [email protected].

From the project description: “We are in danger of forgetting them. We are in danger of never knowing them at all. We know their stories, but not their history. For the women born in the 1920s in colonial Trinidad and Tobago, the generation of grandmothers, it was the women who kept the secrets; they held the stories of the family. It was in the company of women where one could remove the veil; it was in that space that one could be weak, and have your shames dignified. It was the mothers who went in secret to other mothers to borrow money for clothes when the family was short. It was the grandmothers who counseled the young wives on how to survive, and how to move through the world. They passed on these strategies generation to generation, talking in hushed voices over tea; over the stove; over the wall in the garden; one woman to another. These women have shared their secrets with me. For the book project ‘Still. Life.’ I’ve interviewed grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters within families across a range of demographic groups in Trinidad and Tobago. I wanted to know what wisdoms had been passed down through the generations and over the garden wall. I wanted to understand what these wisdoms could reveal about their relationship to a specific world, their particular position in the hierarchy, and that colonial world’s relationship to them that made them necessary. These very particular wisdoms were embodied adaptations.”