Announcing the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards Longlists

“PEN America Literary Award Longlists” in centered text; golden rays sticking out from each corner

PEN America is honored to announce the Longlists for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards. Our awards are juried by panels of esteemed, award-winning writers, editors, translators, and critics. These authors are committed to recognizing their contemporaries, from promising debut writers to those who have had a continuous, lasting impact on literary excellence. You can learn more about the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards judges here.

The 2021 PEN America Literary Awards will confer over $380,000 to writers and translators. Spanning fiction, nonfiction, poetry, biography, essay, science writing, translation, and more, these Longlisted books are dynamic, diverse, and thought-provoking examples of literary excellence.

Finalists for all book awards will be announced in February 2021. Stay tuned for more.

PEN/Jean Stein Book Award ($75,000)

PEN Jean Stein Book Award longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

To a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact, which has broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence.

Judges: Vievee Francis, Fred Moten, Tommy Orange

Borderland Apocrypha, Anthony Cody (Omnidawn)
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Be Holding: A Poem, Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press)
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Luster: A Novel, Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
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Pew, Catherine Lacey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
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The Butterfly Lampshade, Aimee Bender (Doubleday)
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The Death of Vivek Oji: A Novel, Akwaeke Emezi (Riverhead Books)
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Sharks in the Time of Saviors: A Novel, Kawai Strong Washburn (MCD)
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Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)
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This is All I Got: A New Mother’s Search for Home, Lauren Sandler (Random House)
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The Freezer Door, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents)
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PEN Open Book Award ($10,000)

PEN Open Book Award longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

To an exceptional book-length work of any literary genre by an author of color.

Judges: Toi Derricotte, Brandon Hobson, Katie Kitamura, Jamil Jan Kochai, Akil Kumarasamy, Solmaz Sharif

Deluge, Leila Chatti (Copper Canyon Press)
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How to Pronounce Knife, Souvankham Thammavongsa (Little, Brown and Company)
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A Treatise on Stars, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge (New Directions Publishing)
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The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir, E. J. Koh (Tin House)
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Storage Unit for the Spirit House, Maw Shein Win (Omnidawn)
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Wild Peach, S*an D. Henry-Smith (Futurepoem Books)
Small Press Distributions

Inheritors, Asako Serizawa (Doubleday)
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Little Gods, Meng Jin (Custom House)
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Sharks in the Time of Saviors: A Novel, Kawai Strong Washburn (MCD)
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Un-American, Hafizah Geter (Wesleyan University Press)
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PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection ($25,000)

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

To an author whose debut collection of short stories represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise for future work.

Judges: Ben Marcus, Elizabeth McCracken, Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Alligator & Other Stories, Dima Alzayat (Two Dollar Radio)
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If the Body Allows It: Stories, Megan Cummins (University of Nebraska Press)
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Further News of Defeat: Stories, Michael X. Wang (Autumn House Press)
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You Will Never Be Forgotten: Stories, Mary South (FSG Originals)
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The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories, Caroline Kim (University of Pittsburgh Press)
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Imaginary Museums, Nicolette Polek (Soft Skull Press)
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Adults and Other Children: Stories, Miriam Cohen (Ig Publishing)
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A House Is a Body: Stories, Shruti Swamy (Algonquin Books)
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Inheritors, Asako Serizawa (Doubleday)
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Heartland Calamitous, Michael Credico (Autumn House Press)
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PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel ($10,000)

PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

To a debut novel of exceptional literary merit by an American author.

Judges: Ramona Ausubel, Jack Livings, Stuart Nadler

Crooked Hallelujah, Kelli Jo Ford (Grove Press)
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Spindle City: A Novel, Jotham Burrello (Blackstone Publishing)
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Goshen Road: A Novel, Bonnie Proudfoot (Swallow Press)
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How Much of These Hills Is Gold: A Novel, C Pam Zhang (Riverhead Books)
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Temporary: A Novel, Hilary Leichter (Coffee House Press)
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Sharks in the Time of Saviors: A Novel, Kawai Strong Washburn (MCD)
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Shuggie Bain: A Novel, Douglas Stuart (Grove Press)
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Luster: A Novel, Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
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These Ghosts Are Family: A Novel, Maisy Card (Simon & Schuster)
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Cuyahoga: A Novel, Pete Beatty (Scribner)
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PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection ($5,000)

PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

To a poet whose distinguished collection of poetry represents a notable and accomplished literary presence.

Judges: Sherwin Bitsui, Cynthia Cruz, Terrance Hayes, Claudia Keelan, Bao Phi

Upend, Claire Meuschke (Noemi Press)
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Negotiations: Poems, Destiny O. Birdsong (Tin House)
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The Age of Phillis, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Wesleyan University Press)
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Homie: Poems, Danez Smith (Graywolf Press)
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Salat, Dujie Tahat (Tupelo Press)
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Blessed as We Were: Late Selected and New Poems, 2000–2018, Gerald Stern (W. W. Norton & Company)
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Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, John Murillo (Four Way Books)
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Habitat Threshold, Craig Santos Perez (Omnidawn)
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Conjure, Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan University Press)
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Obit, Victoria Chang (Copper Canyon Press)
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PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000)

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

For a book-length translation of poetry from any language into English.

Judges: Daniel Borzutsky, Marissa Davis, Meg Matich

Lean Against This Late Hour, Garous Abdolmalekian (Penguin Books)
Translated from the Persian by Ahmad Nadalizadeh and Idra Novey
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Raised by Wolves: Poems and Conversations, Amang (Phoneme Media)
Translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury
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Sense Violence, Helena Boberg (Black Ocean)
Translated from the Swedish by Johannes Göransson
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Katabasis, Lucía Estrada (Eulalia Books)
Translated from the Spanish by Olivia Lott
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Paper Bells, Phan Nhiên Hạo (The Song Cave)
Translated from the Vietnamese by Hai-Dang Phan
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My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree: Selected Poems, Yi Lei (Graywolf Press)
Translated from the Chinese by Tracy K. Smith and Changtai Bi
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Now at the Threshold: The Late Poems of Tuvia Ruebner, Tuvia Ruebner (Hebrew Union College Press)
Translated from the Hebrew by Rachel Tzvia Back
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Night truck driver, Marcin Świetlicki (Zephyr Press)
Translated from the Polish by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese
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Love Poems/Poemas de amor, Idea Vilariño (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Translated from the Spanish by Jesse Lee Kercheval
University of Pittsburgh Press

A New Orthography, Serhiy Zhadan (Lost Horse Press)
Translated from the Ukrainian by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin
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PEN Translation Prize ($3,000)

PEN Translation Prize longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

For a book-length translation of prose from any language into English.

Judges: Jacqui Cornetta, Somrita Urni Ganguly, Ana L. Méndez-Oliver, Amanda Sarasien, Niloufar Talebi, Sevinç Türkkan

Ornamental, Juan Cárdenas (Coffee House Press)
Translated from the Spanish by Lizzie Davis
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A Country for Dying: A Novel, Abdellah Taïa (Seven Stories Press)
Translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
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Mansour’s Eyes, Ryad Girod (Transit Books)
Translated from the French by Chris Clarke
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Treasure of the Spanish Civil War and Other Tales, Serge Pey (Archipelago Books)
Translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith
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Our Riches, Kaouther Adimi (New Directions Publishing)
Translated from the French by Chris Andrews
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Girls Lost, Jessica Schiefauer (Deep Vellum)
Translated from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel
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That Hair: A Novel, Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida (Tin House)
Translated from the Portuguese by Eric M. B. Becker
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Tokyo Ueno Station: A Novel, Yu Miri (Riverhead Books)
Translated from the Japanese by Morgan Giles
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The Family Clause: A Novel, Jonas Hassen Khemiri (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies
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The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, Shokoofeh Azar (Europa Editions)
Translated from the Persian by Anonymous
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PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($15,000)

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

For a seasoned writer whose collection of essays is an expansion on their corpus of work and preserves the distinguished art form of the essay.

Judges: Sandra Cisneros, John D’Agata, Adam Gopnik

Celeste Holm Syndrome: On Character Actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age, David Lazar (University of Nebraska Press)
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Skull Cathedral: A Vestigial Anatomy, Melissa Wiley (Autumn House Press)
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Wow, No Thank You.: Essays, Samantha Irby (Vintage)
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Had I Known: Collected Essays, Barbara Ehrenreich (Twelve)
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Terroir: Love, Out of Place, Natasha Sajé (Trinity University Press)
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Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader, Vivian Gornick (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
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Maybe the People Would Be the Times, Luc Sante (Verse Chorus Press)
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Like Love, Michele Morano (Mad Creek Books)
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Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays, Robert Michael Pyle (Counterpoint Press)
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Figure It Out: Essays, Wayne Koestenbaum (Soft Skull Press)
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PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000)

PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

For a work that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience.

Judges: Nassir Ghaemi, Christine Kenneally, Erin Macdonald, Banu Subramaniam

A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and the Making of the Planet, Life, and You, Sean B. Carroll (Princeton University Press)
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The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women, Sharon Moalem (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
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The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move, Sonia Shah (Bloomsbury Publishing)
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The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think, Jennifer Ackerman (Penguin Press)
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Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells, Harold McGee (Penguin Press)
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Breath from Salt: A Deadly Genetic Disease, a New Era in Science, and the Patients and Families Who Changed Medicine Forever, Bijal P. Trivedi (BenBella Books)
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The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers, Emily Levesque (Sourcebooks)
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Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl, Jonathan C. Slaght (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
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Fathoms: The World in the Whale, Rebecca Giggs (Simon & Schuster)
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Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live, Nicholas A. Christakis (Little, Brown Spark)
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PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000)

PEN/Jaqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

For a biography of exceptional literary, narrative, and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research.

Judges: Nicholas Buccola, Karl Jacoby, Nell Painter, Anna Whitelock

Mozart: The Reign of Love, Jan Swafford (Harper)
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999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz, Heather Dune Macadam (Citadel)
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MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman, Ben Hubbard (Tim Duggan Books)
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Warhol, Blake Gopnik (Ecco)
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Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World, Amy Stanley (Scribner)
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Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture, Sudhir Hazareesingh (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
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The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography, Hilary Holladay (Nan A. Talese)
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Chasing Chopin: A Musical Journey Across Three Centuries, Four Countries, and a Half-Dozen Revolutions, Annik LaFarge (Simon & Schuster)
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The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., Peniel E. Joseph (Basic Books)
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Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes, Adam Hochschild (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
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PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction ($10,000)

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction longlisted book covers; golden rays sticking out from both sides horizontally

For a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective that illuminates important contemporary issues. 

Judges: Roxane Gay, Thomas Page McBee, Dunya Mikhail, Eric Schlosser, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Laura Wides-Muñoz

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)
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Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals, Saidiya Hartman (W. W. Norton & Company)
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Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women, Cristina Lamb (Scribner)
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The Yellow House, Sarah M. Broom (Grove Atlantic)
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In the Dream House: A Memoir, Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf Press)
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The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books)
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Deported Americans: Life after Deportation to Mexico, Beth C. Caldwell (Duke University Press)
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Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy, David Zucchino (Atlantic Monthly Press)
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Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, Robert Kolker (Doubleday)
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The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, David Wallace-Wells (Tim Duggan Books)
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