2015 PEN Open Book Award

Winner

Claudia Rankine for Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press)

The PEN Open Book Award was created by PEN American Center’s Open Book Committee, a group committed to racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities. The award confers a $5,000 prize upon an author of color.

From the Judges' Citation

Claudia Rankine's Citizen weaves a narrative that packs a mighty punch. With its fluid movement between poetry and prose—as well as photography and art that illuminates the text—Citizen doesn't tip-toe around contemporary issues of race. It confronts them head on, rather than judiciously circling around the issues. As Rankine notes, Zora Neale Hurston famously said, "I feel most colored when thrown against a sharp white background." In this compelling book, Rankine interprets those words with for a contemporary audience and makes her readers feel what it is like to be thrown against the 21st century's sharp white background of slights, shootings, stop-and-frisks, and stereotypes. Citizen is a book that is both for and of our time as well as one for the ages."

Shortlist

An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press), Rabih Alameddine
Every Day Is for the Thief (Random House), Teju Cole
An Untamed State (Black Cat), Roxane Gay
Citizen (Graywolf Press), Claudia Rankine
The City Son (Soho Press), Samrat Upadhyay

Longlist

An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press), Rabih Alameddine
Fire Shut Up in My Bones (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Charles M. Blow
Team Seven (Doubleday), Marcus Burke
Every Day Is for the Thief (Random House), Teju Cole
An Untamed State (Black Cat), Roxane Gay
Streaming (Coffee House Press), Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead Books), Marlon James
Kinder Than Solitude (Random House), Yiyun Li
Citizen (Graywolf Press), Claudia Rankine
The Fateful Apple (Urban Poets and Lyricists), Venus Thrash
The City Son (Soho Press), Samrat Upadhyay

2015 Judges

R. Erica Doyle is a writer of Trinidadian descent from Brooklyn, NY. Her first collection of poetry, proxy (2013), was selected for a Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards. Doyle’s work has been featured in the anthologies Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles (2008) and Best American Poetry (2001), among others. Her honors include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Cave Canem, and an Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice Lesbian Writers Fund Award in Poetry.

W. Ralph Eubanks is the author of The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South and Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey Into Mississippi’s Dark Past. Most recently, he was editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review at the University of Virginia.  

 

 

Chinelo Okparanta was born and raised in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She is the author of Happiness, Like Water. A finalist for the 2013 Caine Prize in African Writing and for the Etisalat Prize for Literature, she is also a 2014 O. Henry Award winner and a 2014 Lambda Literary Award winner for Lesbian Fiction. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, and The Kenyon Review, among others. Photo Credit: Rolex/Bart Michiels

 

Past winners

Meena Alexander, Luis Francia, Joy Harjo, Victor LaValle, Nelly Rosario, Laila Halaby, Suki Kim, Nasdijj, Willie Perdomo, April Reynolds, Faith Adiele, Raquel Cepeda, Lan Samantha Chang, Lolita Hernandez, Ishle Yi Park, Richard Blanco, Andrew Lam, Ed-Bok Lee, Caryl Phillips, Jennifer Tseng, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ernest Hardy, Harryette Mullen, Alberto Ríos, Chris Abani, Amiri Baraka, Frances Hwang, Naeem Murr, Joseph M. Marshall III, Uwem Akpan, Juan Felipe Herrera, Lily Hoang, Sherwin Bitsui, Robin D.G. Kelley, Canyon Sam, Manu Joseph, Siddhartha Deb, Gina Apostol, Kevin Young, Ruth Ellen Kocher and Nina McConigley.

Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.

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