PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History


Applications for the current grant cycle are now closed. The winner will be announced in late fall, 2019. 

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 their ongoing project.



Grant Recipients

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

2019 Grant Recipient

Loida Maritza Pérez for Beyond the Pale.
Judges: Mary Marshall Clark, and Paul Ortiz, Pam Sugiman

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

From the judges’ citation: “Loida Maritza Pérez’s beautifully told story of Dominican life, Beyond the Pale, is rooted in her own discovery of her father’s telling of a version of the truth, which she believes until the end of his life was a lie. The natural drama of the father/daughter relationship reveals the dynamic ways in which memory has been manipulated across the generations in the troubled physical and spiritual borderlands between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Perez’s revelation/her journey in recognizing this mistake takes us into the harsh history of colonization and resistance. The unraveling of tall tales demonstrate how important oral traditions, folktales and Santaria itself is ‘as a form of resistance’ in told form. This reminds oral history audiences that the roots of our field is in orality (vs. written texts and highly professionalized transcripts). Additionally, the book is very well written, in a genre that is true to the oral traditions Pérez comes from.”

Previous Recipients

2019 Loida Maritza Pérez, Beyond the Pale

2018 Nyssa Chow, Still.Life.

2017 Aleksandar Hemon, How Did You Get Here?: Tales of Displacement 




Applications for the current grant cycle are now closed. The winner will be announced in late fall, 2019. 

Who is Eligible
  • The submitted project must be the work of a single individual, written in English.
  • The project must be an unpublished work-in-progress.
  • The project must be a work of literary nonfiction.
  • Oral history must be a significant component of the project and its research.

NOT eligible: Scholarly or academic writing

How to Submit

Please note that the application process in now entirely online; hard copy applications will not be accepted. 

The online submission form requires the following:

  • A 1-2 page, single-spaced description of the work, its importance, and why the author chose to undertake this project. One can additionally use this space to discuss relevant permissions, contracts, rights, or other aspects of the project. 
  • A 1-2 page, single-spaced statement explaining why and how oral history was used in the project. 
  • A 300-500 word statement explaining how a grant would aid in the completion of the project.
  • A CV for the author of the project, which should include information on any previous publications.
  • An outline that includes the work completed thus far and the work remaining. The outline should include the names of all participants.
  • Transcripts of the project interviews (6-10 pages).
  • A writing sample from the project (20-40 pages, double-spaced).

Applications for the current grant cycle are now closed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Should I submit a section of the raw, unedited transcript in addition to the writing sample comprised of edited transcripts?

A: Explain the situation in your application, and then include a section of the unedited transcript for the transcript section and the edited transcripts as the writing sample.

Q: Do the writing sample and transcription need to cover the same material?

A: The transcript and writing sample should best represent the project’s overall goals, subject matter, and process, but do not necessarily need to be the same materials and/or scene.