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Meet the 2019 Literary Awards Judges

PEN America’s 2019 Literary Awards judges join a long tradition of esteemed writers and PEN America members committed to recognizing their contemporaries, from promising debut writers to those who have had a long lasting impact on literary culture. Our judges hail from a wide range of disciplines, backgrounds, and aesthetic lineages, and are prizewinning authors in their own right. Previous judges have included Claudia Rankine, Hilton Als, George Saunders, Michael Ondaatje, and Ada Limón, and are selected with the help of the PEN America Literary Awards Committee. We are honored to introduce to you the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards judges.

Stay tuned: We’re announcing the PEN America Literary Awards finalists in January 2019!



PEN/Jean Stein Award for Book of the Year Judges (Multi-genre)

The PEN/Jean Stein Judges will be announced in January 2019.

PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature (Multi-genre)

The PEN/Nabokov judges will be announced in January 2019.

PEN Open Book (Multi-genre)
HANIF ABDURRAQIB is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first collection of poems, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, was released in 2016 and was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in fall 2017 by Two Dollar Radio. CRISTINA MARI ARREOLA is the senior books editor at Bustle and a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. RICHIE NARVAEZ is the author of the award-winning fiction collection Roachkiller and Other Stories. His work has appeared in [email protected] Rising: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mississippi Review, Pilgrimage, and Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder, among others. He was recently named the Bronx Council on the Arts Artist in Residence at the Morris Park Library. His debut novel, Hipster Death Rattle, will be published in March 2019.
KEVIN NGUYEN is the features editor at The Verge. Previously he was a senior editor at GQ. Spiegel & Grau will publish his debut novel, New Waves. ELISSA WASHUTA is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and a nonfiction writer. She is the author of two books, Starvation Mode and My Body Is a Book of Rules, named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. With Theresa Warburton, she is co-editor of the anthology Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers. She has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, 4Culture, Potlatch Fund, and Hugo House. Elissa is an assistant professor of creative writing at the Ohio State University. SUNIL YAPA is the author of Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, which was a finalist for the 2017 PEN/Faulkner award, and was named one of the best books of 2016 by Amazon, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Bustle, and others. Set during one day of the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, the novel was described as “fast-paced and unflinching” by The New Yorker, “a genuine tour-de-force” by the Seattle Times, and “protest poetry, pure and simple” by MacLeans. He currently lives in Montreal, and teaches in the low residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College.



PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel (Shortlist Announced in January and Winner in April)
DINAW MENGESTU, the acclaimed Ethiopian-American novelist, was named a “20 under 40” writer by The New Yorker and received the National Book Award Foundation’s “5 under 35” Award for his dazzling debut, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. The author of three novels, Mengestu speaks with profound eloquence about the immigrant experience. CRISTINA GARCÍA is the author of seven novels, including Dreaming in Cuban and Here in Berlin. She’s written books for young readers, a collection of poetry, edited anthologies of Latinx literature, and taught at universities nationwide. García’s work has been nominated for a National Book Award and translated into 14 languages. Her theatrical adaptation of her sixth novel, King of Cuba, premiered at Central Works Theater in 2018. She is currently playwright-in-residence at Brava Theater in San Francisco.
SCOTT SIMON hosts Weekend Edition with Scott Simon on Saturday mornings on NPR, and is a special contributor to CBS Sunday Morning. He is the author of nine books, including the novels Pretty Birds and Windy City, and the New York Times best-selling memoir, Unforgettable. He has written pieces for the Wall St. Journal, New York Times, and Gourmet. He has covered 10 wars, and stories in all 50 states and on every continent.
PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection
CHRIS ABANI is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter, and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria; received a BA in English from Imo State University, Nigeria; an MA in English, Gender and Culture from Birkbeck College, University of London; and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. He has resided in the United States since 2001. FRANCES HWANG is the author of the short story collection Transparency (Back Bay Books, 2007), which won the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Sue Kaufman
Prize for First Fiction and a PEN Open Book Award. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Colgate University, the MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
GARY LUTZ‘s books include four short story collections (Stories in the Worst Way, I Looked Alive, Partial List of People to Bleach, and Divorcer), a chapbook of short stories (Assisted Living), and a work of nonfiction (The Gotham Grammarian). Lutz has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.



PEN/Osterweil Award for Poetry
DANIEL BORZUTZKY’s latest poetry collection, Lake Michigan (University of Pittsburgh Press), was published in 2018. Borzutzky won the 2016 National Book Award in Poetry for The Performance of Becoming Human (Brooklyn Arts Press). Other books include In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (Nightboat, 2015) and The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat, 2011). He has translated poetry collections by Chilean writers Raúl Zurita, Galo Ghigliotto, and Jaime Luis Huenún. He teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago. ILYA KAMINSKY was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived to the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government. Kaminsky is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press) which won the Whiting Writer’s Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, and the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by Poetry magazine. Dancing In Odessa was also named Best Poetry Book of the Year by ForeWord Magazine. AIREA D. MATTHEWS is the author of Simulacra, winner of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets. Her work has appeared in Callaloo, Best American Poets 2015, Harvard Review, American Poet, and elsewhere. A past recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, she is an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College.



PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction
NANA-AMA DANQUAH is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Through Depression and the editor of three anthologies. She is currently at work on her next project, a nonfiction book. MCKENZIE FUNK wrote the PEN Award-winning book Windfall and contributes to National Geographic and The New York Times Magazine. A former Knight-Wallace Fellow and Open Society Fellow, he lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Jennifer Woo, and their two sons. SYREETA MCFADDEN is a writer and professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, BuzzFeed News, and elsewhere. She was a 2013 recipient of CEC ArtsLink One Big City Residency and a 2018 fellow at SPACE at Ryder Farm. She is currently working on a collection of essays about African Americans in the Midwest.
CHRISTINA SHARPE is a professor at York University in the Department of Humanities. She is the author of two books: In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (2016) (a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Finalist in nonfiction) and Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects (2010), both published by Duke University Press. She is currently completing the critical introduction to Collected Poems of Dionne Brand (1982-2010) and she is working on a monograph: Black. Still. Life. LINDA VILLAROSA runs the journalism program at The City College of New York and is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine. Her book Under the Skin: Race, Inequality and the Health of a Nation will be published by Doubleday.
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
GARRARD CONLEY is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir Boy Erased, which has been translated in over a dozen languages and is now a major motion picture. Conley is also a creator and producer of the podcast UnErased, which explores the history of conversion therapy in America. His work can be found in The New York Times, TIME, BuzzFeed, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among other places. He is currently at work on a novel about queer 18th century lives. PAUL REYES is the editor of Virginia Quarterly Review, and is the author of Exiles in Eden: Life Among the Ruins of Florida’s Great Recession. His essays and reporting have appeared in VQR, The Oxford American, Harper’s, The New York Times, Literary Hub, Mother Jones, and elsewhere. AISHA SABATINI SLOAN is the author of The Fluency of Light (2013) and Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit (2017), which was nominated for the University of Iowa’s Essay Prize and won the CLMP Firecracker award for nonfiction. She teaches creative writing at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program.
PEN/Bograd Weld Prize for Biography
NELL IRVIN PAINTER is the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University and author of several books including Sojourner Truth: A Life, A SymbolThe History of White People; and Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over. In addition to a PhD in history from Harvard University, she has a BFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, both in painting. SAM STEPHENSON is a writer who spent 20 years following footsteps of photographer W. Eugene Smith in archives and with more than 500 oral history interviews, the results distilled into a spare, digressive work, Gene Smith’s Sink, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2017. He won a 2015 Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Prize for his piece on John Coltrane’s first biographer, African-American surgeon Dr. Cuthbert Simpkins, for The Paris Review. RACHEL SYME is a cultural critic and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Elle, Vanity Fair, and elsewhere. She is currently a columnist at The New Yorker, where she covers fashion and consumer culture, and she is the television critic for The New Republic. She writes regularly about history and biographical subjects.
PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
ARIANNE SHAHVISI is a Kurdish-British academic philosopher based at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge on the philosophy of cosmology. Her current research focuses on race, gender, and migration. Shahvisi edits the science section of literary magazine The Offing, which seeks out and supports work by those marginalized in literary spaces, and serves as an editorial board member for Kohl: A Journal for Body and Gender Research. She has written commentary for the New Statesman, Jacobin, and The Conversation. JEFF VANDERMEER has been called “the weird Thoreau” by The New Yorker for his engagement with ecological issues in novels such as the Arthur C. Clarke Award-finalist Borne and the NYT best-selling Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance). VanderMeer’s fiction has won the Shirley Jackson Award and the Nebula Award, among others, and been translated into 35 languages. His nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida. CHRISTIE WILCOX, Ph.D. is an award-winning science writer and the author of Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry, named one of Smithsonian Magazine‘s Best Books about Science 2016 and Amazon’s Best Books of 2016. Her bylines include The Washington Post, National Geographic, Popular Science, and Discover. She currently lives on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and edits for the YouTube channel SciShow.
PEN/ESPN Literary Sports Writing Awards (Book of the Year and Lifetime Achievement)
CHRIS BACHELDER is the author of four novels, including The Throwback Special, a Finalist for the 2016 National Book Award. His fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, and many other publications. He lives in Cincinnati with his wife and two daughters. RAFI KOHAN is the author of The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport, a finalist for the 2018 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. Currently, he works at The Atlantic, as the head of editorial for the magazine’s creative marketing studio. Formerly, he served as deputy editor at New York Observer, and has written for GQ, Men’s Journal, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, LA Times, Town & Country, Rolling Stone, and more. CARVELL WALLACE is an author and podcaster based in Oakland, California. He has covered sports, culture, music, race, and the arts for ESPN, The New Yorker, MTV, GQ, and others. His 2017 podcast Closer Than They Appear won the Kaleidoscope award from the Radio Television Digital News Association. He is a regular columnist on Slate and a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine. His book, The Sixth Man—co-written with Golden State Warriors Forward Andre Iguodala—is due out in Summer of 2019.



PEN Translation Prize
SINAN ANTOON is a poet, novelist, scholar, and translator. He has published two collections of poetry and four novels. His works have been translated into 12 languages. His translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s, In the Presence of Absence, won the 2012 American Literary Translators’ Award. His fourth novel, The Book of Collateral Damage, is forthcoming from Yale University Press in 2019. He is Associate Professor at New York University. EWA CHRUSCIEL is a poet, teacher, and translator. She has three books of poems in English: Of Annunciations (Omnidawn, 2017), Contraband of Hoopoe (Omnidawn, 2014), Strata (Emergency Press, 2009, reprinted by Omnidawn in April 2018), as well as three books in Polish: Tobołek, Sopiłki, Furkot. She also translated selected books by Jack London, Joseph Conrad, I.B. Singer, as well as the book of selected poems by Jorie Graham, and selected poems of Kazim Ali, Lyn Hejinian, Cole Swensen, and other American poets into Polish. She is an Associate Professor of Humanities at Colby-Sawyer College. PETER FILKINS is the translator of Ingeborg Bachmann’s collected poems, Darkness Spoken, and three novels by H.G. Adler—Panorama, The Journey, and The Wall. His work has received an Outstanding Translation Award from ALTA, a Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, and a Distinguished Translation Award from the Austrian Ministry for Culture and Education. His four published collections of poetry include The View We’re Granted, winner of the Sheila Motten Best Book Award from the New England Poetry Club. He teaches literature and writing at Bard College at Simon’s Rock and translation at Bard’s main campus.

KATRINE ØGAARD JENSEN is a writer and translator. A founding editor of EuropeNow, a journal of political research and literature at Columbia University, she previously served as editor-in-chief of the Columbia Journal and blog editor at Asymptote and Words Without Borders. Her translation of Ursula Andkjær Olsen’s book-length poem Third-Millennium Heart (Action Books/Broken Dimanche Press, 2017) was recently shortlisted for the 2018 Best Translated Book Award, as well as the 2018 National Translation Award.

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation
EZRA E. FITZ has translated over 20 books by authors ranging from Emmy winning journalist Jorge Ramos and Grammy winning musician Juanes to novelists Alberto Fuguet and Eloy Urroz. Shorter works have appeared in Words Without Borders, BOMB, A Public Space, Harper’s, and elsewhere. He is currently translating The Lover from the Ghetto by Pedro Ángel Palou, forthcoming from Lazy/La Pereza Editions, and he lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee. BARBARA HARSHAV has translated more than 30 books from German, French, Hebrew, and Yiddish, including After the Holocaust, Jewish Memories, A Surplus of Memory, and My Life as a Radical Jewish Woman. She is the winner of the PEN/Manheim Medal for Translation. A historian by profession, she lives in North Haven, Connecticut. VINCENT KLING (Philadelphia and Vienna) teaches languages and comparative literature at La Salle University. He dissertated on Hugo von Hofmannsthal and has published on several Austrian authors as well as on detective fiction, the craft of translation, W. G. Sebald, and Isabel Allende. He has translated extensively from German and is on the staff of the Salzburg Festival. He was awarded the Schlegel-Tieck Prize in 2013 for Algaja Veterani’s novel Why the Child Is Cooking in the Polenta. His translation of Heimito von Doderer’s novel Die Strudlhofstiege is forthcoming from New York Review Books.
MARIAN SCHWARTZ translates Russian fiction and nonfiction, including such classics as Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 1. Her most recent publication is Leonid Yuzefovich’s Horsemen of the Sands (Archipelago Books). In 2014 she received the Read Russia Prize for Contemporary Russian Literature and in 2018 the Linda Gaboriau Award for Translation from the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. RON SLATE is a poet, critic, and the editor of the online literary review “On The Seawall.” His poetry collection, The Incentive of the Maggot, was nominated for both the National Book Critics Circle poetry prize and the Lenore Marshall Prize of the Academy of American Poets. For 25 years he worked as a communications executive for three high technology corporations. He is a board member of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and lives in Milton and Aquinnah, Massachusetts.



PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation Award for Drama
CRAIG LUCAS is an American playwright, screenwriter, theatre director, musical actor, and film director. In 2001, Lucas received an OBIE Award for his direction of Harry Kondoleon’s Saved or Destroyed. Lucas’ other awards include the Excellence in Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the PEN/Laura Pels Mid-Career Achievement Award, the Outer Critics, L.A. Drama Critics, Drama-Logue and LAMBDA Literary Awards; he has also received a Tony Award nomination, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts and the PEW Charitable Trust and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play, Prelude to a Kiss. He is currently Associate Artistic Director at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle. JACOB G. PADRON is the Founder and Artistic Director of The Sol Project. He was most recently on the artistic staff of the Public Theater as the Senior Line Producer where he worked on new plays, new musicals, Shakespeare in the Park and Public Works.Prior to his post at The Public, Padrón was the Producer at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago where he oversaw the artistic programming in the Garage, Steppenwolf’s second stage dedicated to new work, new artists and new audiences. CONDOLA RASHAD made her off-Broadway debut as Sophie in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of Lynn Nottage’s acclaimed play Ruined and received a Theatre World Award for her performance, as well as Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Award nominations. Rashad made her Broadway debut as Cheryl in Lydia R. Diamond’s Broadway premiere of Stick Fly, which also featured original music by the show’s co-producer Alicia Keys, and was nominated for her first Tony Award in the category of “Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play” in 2012.



PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing
MARK DOTEN‘s novel Trump Sky Alpha is forthcoming from Graywolf Press. He is the author of a previous novel, The Infernal, and was named to Granta’s once-a-decade “Best of Young American Novelists” list in 2017. He is the executive editor for literary fiction at Soho Press and teaches in Columbia University’s graduate writing program. He lives in Princeton, NJ. KIMA JONES founded Jack Jones Literary Arts in March 2015 and works as lead strategist on all publicity campaigns and is especially proud of her work on the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry winner, Olio, by Tyehimba Jess; the 2017 PEN America Robert W. Bingham Emerging Fiction Prize winner, Insurrections, by Rion Amilcar Scott; and the 2017 Midland Authors Award winner in Adult Fiction, Know the Mother, by Desiree Cooper. DANIEL A. OLIVAS is the author of nine books including The King of Lighting Fixtures: Stories (University of Arizona Press) and Crossing the Border: Collected Poems (Pact Press). He is the co-editor of The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tía Chucha Press) and editor of Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press). Olivas has also written for The New York Times and the Los Angeles Review of Books.