PEN America is pleased to announce the four finalists for the 2016 PEN/FUSION Emerging Writers Prize, selected by judges Marie Arana, Manuel Gonzales, and Johnny Temple. The award is presented to a promising young writer under the age of 35 for an unpublished work of nonfiction that addresses a global and/or multicultural issue. The winner will receive a $10,000 prize and will be announced live at the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony in New York City on April 11. Click on the name of each finalist to learn more about the author and their manuscript:

Victoria Blanco, “Visions of Oasis”

Laurel Fantauzzo, “Archipelago Sleepovers”

Jean Guerrero, “Crux”

Jaclyn Moyer, “The Girl Outside My Window”

About the Finalists

Victoria Blanco is writing an essay collection about a Rarámuri community in Chihuahua City, Mexico. Her research among the Rarámuris has been funded by a Fulbright Award and fellowships from the University of Minnesota. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota. Victoria is a freelance writer for the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Pollen. In April 2016, she will be the writer-in-residence for Coffee House Press In the Stacks. Her writing is forthcoming in Fourth Genre. Victoria lives in Minneapolis with her husband and son. She is from El Paso, Texas.

About “Visions of Oasis”: Through essays that weave together ethnography, reportage, and memoir, “Visions of Oasis” explores the violent interactions that have defined relations between mestizos and Rarámuris for five centuries. The essays take readers to Oasis, the largest government-funded indigenous settlement in Chihuahua City and home to hundreds of Rarámuris displaced by the drug trade and the environmental destruction of their mountain homeland. The factors spurring the Rarámuri exodus to the cities speak to a history of indigenous exploitation—a history in which the author’s family took part, by exploiting Rarámuris who worked in the family’s silver mines. Inside Oasis, the Rarámuri women share their lives with the author, offering teachings on reconciling their pasts and how to live on an endangered planet. The essays move between the present and the past, between academic inquiry and personal history, to answer the author’s driving question: what lessons can we learn from indigenous cultures as climate change threatens destruction?


Laurel Fantauzzo grew up in Ventura County, California. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire Philippines, and The Rumpus. She has earned grants and residencies from Fulbright, Hedgebrook, and Erasmus, and she is currently a Writers’ Centre fellow and instructor at Yale-NUS College. She divides her time between Singapore and Quezon City.

About “Archipelago Sleepovers”: The memoir “Archipelago Sleepovers” charts how a mixed race, first-generation Filipina American forms a relationship to the Philippines through her most pivotal sleepovers. Raised in Southern California by alternately loving and violent parents, the Philippines haunted Laurel Fantauzzo’s adolescence. Since she lacked a safe family and had no definitive home to guide her, the sleepover became her respite, her temporary refuge. As a young adult she eventually fumbles her way into a life in Manila. Her journey is, by turns, funny and anxious—shot through with joy, grief, and discovery—amidst islands of sleep and waking.


Jean Guerrero is the Fronteras reporter at KPBS, San Diego’s NPR and PBS affiliate, where she covers immigration and other border issues. Previously, she was a correspondent in Mexico City for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, trekking through mountains with coffee smugglers, opium poppy producers and maize farmers. More recently, she ventured into Tijuana’s sewers to expose the plight of deported migrants. She holds a master’s in creative nonfiction from Goucher College, as well as a University of Southern California bachelor’s in journalism and minor in neuroscience. She is half Mexican, half Puerto Rican.

About “Crux”: “Crux” is a cross-border memoir about a young American’s quest to understand her Mexican father: the ultimate migrant, traversing mental, geographical and spiritual frontiers. Fleeing alleged CIA mind control experiments, he travels across three continents. Jean Guerrero grows up being told her father is “schizophrenic.” While rooted in fact-based research, the author—a journalist by trade—explores alternative explanations. Her search for truth leads her to Mexico City, his birthplace. She struggles to reconcile her two cultures while examining the past. She learns of her father’s great grandmother, a clairvoyant curandera paid to heed voices and visions from netherworlds. Could this ancestor hold the key to her father’s psychic odyssey? “Crux” is about both the healing and destructive power of storytelling. It is a story of border crossings: between the U.S. and Mexico, madness and sanity, the mundane and magical, death and life itself.


Jaclyn Moyer grew up in the foothills of Northern California where she now lives with her partner and one-year-old daughter. Her essays have been published or are forthcoming in The Normal School, december, Salon, Hippocampus, High Country News, and other journals. She is currently at work on her first book of nonfiction. 

About “The Girl Outside My Window”: In “The Girl Outside My Window” the writer travels from her home in California to the rural village in northern India where her mother was born. Here she meets her cousin, a young woman who has never left the village and lives a life governed by deep-seated cultural traditions. Over the course of the journey the writer must confront the disparity between her own life in America and her cousin’s life in India, leading her to reevaluate her understanding of home, heritage, and belonging. This essay explores the complicated consequences of immigration and asks what is at stake in the process of leaving one’s home.