Announcing The 2024 PEN/Jean Stein Grants For Literary Oral History Winners

PEN America is delighted to announce the 2024 literary grant winners for the PEN/Jean Stein Grants for Literary Oral History.

Publishers, agents, and editors who wish to learn more about these projects are invited to contact the PEN America Literary Awards team at [email protected].

PEN/Jean Stein Grants For Literary Oral History ($15,000)

The PEN/Jean Stein Grants for Literary Oral History recognize literary works of nonfiction that use oral history to illuminate an event, individual, place, or movement. The grants are made possible by a substantial contribution from American author and editor Jean Stein, whose groundbreaking work helped popularize literary oral history. The grant was first conferred in 2017, and since 2021, PEN America has conferred two grants with cash prizes of $15,000 each.

Judges: Tricia Romano, Sara Sinclair, Liza Zapol

Yasmine Shamma, How to Wait: What Refugees Teach Us About Living in Waiting

At a crucial time of global attention and anguish about questions of displacement, home and belonging in the Middle East, Yasmine Shamma’s How to Wait: What Refugees Teach Us About Living in Waiting is an urgently needed book. Deeply personal, well informed, and highly researched over nine years in the Levant and worldwide, Shamma’s compelling prose insists that migration crises can have never-ending and multi-generational consequences. With her more than 75 interviews with refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers, Shamma grounds political theory and philosophy in lived experience. Her narrators’ experience is also her own: as a descendant of displaced Palestinian and Lebanese people, Shamma deftly weaves between her own narrative and others, reflecting on the ways they echo, harmonize, and create dissonance. 

Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse, Preservation Under Fire

Following hundreds of hours of interviews and long-term partnerships with national, regional, and private archives from all areas of Iraq, Preservation Under Fire introduces the preservationists who have defied great odds to build collections that represent and guard the collective cultural identity of a people; and to explain why and how these individuals protect culture under duress. Though reportage from Baghdad, Shingal and other contested areas in Iraq over the last two decades of war is common, little is written about the vast and vibrant culture so important to the region’s inhabitants. Tracking preservationists through the last fifty years and across three major cities, representing three major ethnic groups of the country, the book is a celebration of perseverance and the human spirit. It explores what cyclical devastation and perpetual threat have taught these communities about ensuring their culture survives. Preservation Under Fire examines the relationships between memory and its many artifacts, and the role of culture in creating lasting understating of who we are as individuals and in community.