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.



Fellowship Recipients

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

2018 Fellowship 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.”




Submissions for the next grant cycle will be accepted from April 1, 2019 – June 1, 2019. Apply here >>

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  • The project must be an unpublished work-in-progress.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:

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.
  • 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).
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: In regards to the amount of pages requested for both the project transcript and the writing sample (6-10 and 20-40 respectively) is that single or double-spaced?

A: The project transcript and writing sample should be double-spaced.