Meet the 2021 Literary Awards Judges

PEN America’s 2021 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 continuous, lasting impact on literary excellence. Our judges this year hail from across the world and represent a wide range of disciplines, backgrounds, identities, and aesthetic lineages, and are award-winning writers themselves. Each year, our judges are selected with the help of the PEN America Literary Awards Committee.

We are honored to introduce you here to the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards judges.


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

Vievee Francis headshot

VIEVEE FRANCIS is the author of three books of poetry: Blue-Tail Fly, Horse in the Dark (winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Poetry Prize for a second collection), and Forest Primeval (winner of the Hurston Wright Legacy Award and the 2017 Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award). Her work has appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, among others. She serves as an associate editor of Callaloo and an associate professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.

Frederick Moten headshotFRED MOTEN is a cultural theorist and poet creating new conceptual spaces that accommodate emergent forms of Black cultural production, aesthetics, and social life. He is developing a new mode of aesthetic inquiry wherein the conditions of being Black play a central role. He teaches Black studies and critical theory in the Department of Performance Studies at New York University. Author of many books of criticism and poetry, Moten’s latest, written with Stefano Harney, is All Incomplete (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2020). He is the recipient of a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship.


Tommy Orange headshot

TOMMY ORANGE is the New York Times bestselling author of There There, which won the John Leonard Award for Best First Book, PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His next novel, Wandering Stars, will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2022. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Oakland, CA.

PEN Open Book Award ($10,000)

Toi Derricotte headshot

TOI DERRICOTTE is the recipient of the 2020 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America. Her sixth collection of poetry, “I” New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019) was shortlisted for the 2019 National Book Award. In 1996 with Cornelius Eady, she co-founded the Cave Canem Foundation, supporting the artistic growth and development of Black poets. Cave Canem won the 2016 National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. Derricotte served as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017. She teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.

Brandon Hobson headshot

BRANDON HOBSON is the author of three novels, including Where the Dead Sit Talking (Soho Press, 2018), which was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award, winner of the Reading the West Award, longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, and one of Kirkus Reviews’s Best Books of 2018. His new novel, The Removed, is forthcoming from Ecco in 2021. He is an assistant professor of creative writing at New Mexico State University and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Hobson is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

Katie Kitamura headshot

KATIE KITAMURA is the author of three novels, most recently A Separation (Riverhead Books, 2017), a finalist for the Premio Gregor von Rezzori and a New York Times Notable Book. It was named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications, translated into 16 languages, and is being adapted for film. Her new novel, Intimacies, is forthcoming from Riverhead in 2021. She teaches in the creative writing program at New York University.

Jamil Jan Kochai headshot

JAMIL JAN KOCHAI is the author of 99 Nights in Logar (Viking, 2019), a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. His short stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Ploughshares, and The O. Henry Prize Stories 2018. Currently, he is a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. He was born in an Afghan refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan, but he originally hails from Logar, Afghanistan.

Akil Kumarasamy headshot

AKIL KUMARASAMY is the author of the story collection Half Gods (FSG, 2018), which was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection, and a recipient of the Story Prize Spotlight Award. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, American Short Fiction, and Boston Review, among others. She has received fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Yaddo, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She is an assistant professor at the Rutgers-Newark MFA program, and her debut novel is forthcoming with Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


Solmaz Sharif headshot

SOLMAZ SHARIF is the author of Look (Graywolf Press, 2016),  a finalist for the National Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times, Kenyon Review, and others. She has been recognized with the Boston Review’s Discovery Poetry Prize, Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and an NEA fellowship. She was most recently selected to receive a 2016 Lannan Literary Fellowship and the 2017 Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, she is currently an assistant professor in creative writing at Arizona State University.

PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection ($5,000)

Sherin Bitsui headshot

SHERWIN BITSUI (Diné) is originally from White Cone, AZ, on the Navajo Reservation. He is Diné of the Todich’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tl’izilani (Many Goats Clan). He is the author of Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003), Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), and Dissolve (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). His honors include a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship and a Native Arts and Culture Foundation Arts Fellowship. He is also the recipient of a 2010 PEN Open Book Award, an American Book Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. He is on the faculty at Northern Arizona University.

Cynthia Cruz headshot

CYNTHIA CRUZ is the author of six collections of poems. Her most recent is Guidebooks for the Dead (Four Way Books, 2020).  Her collection of critical essays, Disquieting: Essays on Silence (Book*hug Press, 2019), explores the concept of silence as a form of resistance. The Melancholia of Class, her second collection of critical essays, is forthcoming from Repeater Books in 2021. Cruz co-edits the multidisciplinary online journal Schlag Magazine. Cruz earned an MA in German language and literature from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the European Graduate School, where her area of research is psychoanalysis and philosophy.

Terrance Hayes headshot

TERRANCE HAYES has published American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin (Penguin, 2018) and To Float in The Space Between (Wave Books, 2018). American Sonnets won the Hurston/Wright Award for Poetry. It was a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, among others. To Float won the Poetry Foundation’s Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Hayes is a professor of English at New York University. He is a 2014 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and in 2017 was elected chancellor at the Academy of American Poets.

Claudia Keelan headshot

CLAUDIA KEELAN is author of eight poetry collections; an essay collection, Ecstatic Émigré (University of Michigan Press, 2018)’ and a translation of the women troubadours’ Truth of My Songs (Omnidawn, 2014). She was awarded the Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books and the American Poetry Review’s Jerome J. Shestack Prize. She has taught in several programs, including the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the University of Alabama (where she held the Coal Royalty Chair in Poetry), Rhodes College, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she is editor of Interim and a Barrick Distinguished Scholar. She lives in the Mojave Desert.


Bao Phi headshot

BAO PHI is a spoken word poet and writer. He has two poetry collections from Coffee House Press: Sông I Sing (2011) and Thousand Star Hotel (2017). The latter was nominated for the Minnesota Book Award and was San Francisco State’s Poetry Center’s 2017 best poetry book of the year. His poetry has been featured in The Best American Poetry, among other anthologies. His first children’s book, A Different Pond, won multiple awards including a Caldecott Honor, an Ezra Jack Keats Honor, and the Charlotte Zolotow Award. His second children’s book, My Footprints (Capstone, 2019), was named a Best Fiction Book for Young Readers by the Chicago Public Library.


PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($15,000)

Sandra Cisneros headshot

SANDRA CISNEROS is a poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist, performer, and artist whose work explores the lives of the working class. Her awards include National Endowment of the Arts fellowships, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the National Medal of the Arts awarded to her by President Obama in 2016. Her classic novel, The House on Mango Street (Arte Público Press, 1984), has sold over six million copies and has been translated into over 20 languages. Cisneros also founded two nonprofits to help emerging writers: the Macondo Foundation and the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation. She is currently at work on the opera libretto of The House on Mango Street in collaboration with composer Derek Bermel.


John D’Agata headshot

JOHN D’AGATA is the author of Halls of Fame (Graywolf Press, 2001), About a Mountain (W.W. Norton, 2010), and The Lifespan of a Fact (W.W. Norton & Company, 2012), which was recently adapted as a Broadway play and has since been produced around the United States. He is also the editor of the anthologies The Next American Essay, The Making of the American Essay, and The Lost Origins of the Essay, and is now working on a book about an ancient Greek love letter. He lives in Iowa City, where he is a professor of creative writing and director of the nonfiction writing program at the University of Iowa.

Adam Gopnik headshot

ADAM GOPNIK has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1986, and has won the National Magazine Award for essays and criticism three times, among many other accolades. His books include the essay collections Paris to the Moon (Random House, 2001), The Table Comes First (Vintage, 2012), and Through the Children’s Gate (Vintage, 2006). His work has been anthologized in Best American Essays among others. He is also a lecturer, lyricist, and librettist. He received his BA in art history from McGill University and graduate degree from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction ($10,000)

Roxane Gay headshot

ROXANE GAY writes across a variety of genres. She is the author of New York Times bestselling books Bad Feminist (Harper, 2014) and Hunger (HarperCollins, 2017)  as well as the nationally bestselling Difficult Women (Grove Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in many anthologies and magazines. She is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.  Gay is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel (Marvel, 2017).

Thomas Page McBee headshot

THOMAS PAGE MCBEE’s Lambda Literary Award-winning debut memoir, Man Alive (City Lights, 2014) was named one of the best books of the year by NPR Books, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly. His follow-up, Amateur (Scribner, 2018), was shortlisted for the U.K.’s  Baillie-Gifford Book Prize for Nonfiction and the Wellcome Book Prize. McBee has taught at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY and serves as an advisor for West Virginia University’s graduate school of journalism. A former senior editor at Quartz, McBee’s essays and reportage have appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, and The Atlantic.

Dunya Mikhail headshot

DUNYA MIKHAIL is an Iraqi-American author. New Directions published her books In Her Feminine Sign (2019), The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq (2018), The Iraqi Nights (2014), Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea (2009), and The War Works Hard (2005). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Knights Foundation grant, a Kresge Fellowship, and the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. She works as a special lecturer of Arabic at Oakland University in Michigan.

Eric Schlosser headshot

ERIC SCHLOSSER is the author of books Fast Food Nation (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001), Reefer Madness (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003), and Command and Control (Penguin Group, 2013). Two of his plays have been produced in London, Americans (Arcola Theatre, 2003) and We the People (Shakespeare’s Globe, 2007).  He also helped produce a number of films, including Fast Food Nation, There Will Be Blood, Food Inc., and The Bomb, which he co-directed. He is currently at work on a book about mass incarceration.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor headshot

KEEANGA-YAMAHTTA TAYLOR is author of Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership (University of North Carolina Press, 2019), a semifinalist for the 2019 National Book Award and a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in History. Her earlier books include the award-winning From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (Haymarket, 2016) and How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective (Haymarket, 2017), which won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBQT Nonfiction in 2018. Taylor is a contributing writer at The New Yorker and assistant professor of African American studies at Princeton University.


Laura Wides-Muñoz headshot

LAURA WIDES-MUÑOZ is a journalist and author of The Making of a Dream: How a Group of Young Undocumented Immigrants Helped Change What it Means to be American (Harper Books, 2018), which was a 2018 PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction semifinalist and a Library Journal book of the year. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian, among others. Wides-Muñoz is an executive editor for News Practices at ABC News. She has worked at Fusion Network and The Associated Press, and was a 2013 Nieman Foundation for journalism Fellow at Harvard University.


PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000)

Nassir Ghaemi headshotNASSIR GHAEMI is a psychiatrist and author of A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness (Penguin Group, 2011), a New York Times bestseller. He has published a half dozen other books, over 200 scientific articles or book chapters, and blogs for Psychology Today and Medscape. He is a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University and Harvard Medical School, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and on the editorial board of numerous psychiatric journals. His textbook, Clinical Psychopharmacology (Oxford University Press, 2019), won the 2020 Prose Award for Excellence in Biological and Life Sciences (Association of American Publishers).

Christine Kenneally headshot

CHRISTINE KENNEALLY is an award-winning journalist and author who has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, New Scientist, Scientific American, and other publications. Her book, The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures (Black Incorporated Books, 2014), was a New York Times Notable Book of 2014. Her first book, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language (Viking, 2007), was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Kenneally received a Ph.D. in linguistics from Cambridge University and was a 2019 finalist for a National Magazine Award and a Michael Kelly Award.

Erin Macdonald headshot

Erin Macdonald (Ph.D., Astrophysics) is an internationally recognized space science expert, writer, speaker, and consultant. Her academic research background is in gravitational waves and general relativity. She currently lives in Los Angeles and is working as a writer and science consultant for the Star Trek franchise.

Banu Subramaniam headshot

BANU SUBRAMANIAM is author of Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity (University of Illinois Press, 2014), which was awarded the Ludwik Fleck Prize for best book in science and technology studies in 2016. She also authored Holy Science: The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism (University of Washington Press, 2019), which won the 2020 Michelle Kendrick Book Prize for the best book in literature, science, and the arts. Coeditor of several anthologies, Subramaniam teaches in the Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000)

Nicholas Buccola headshot

NICHOLAS BUCCOLA is the author of The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America (Princeton University Press, 2019). His writing has been featured in numerous scholarly journals as well as popular outlets such as The New York Times, Salon, and Dissent. He is the Elizabeth and Morris Glicksman Chair in Political Science at Linfield University in McMinnville, OR.

Karl Jacoby headshot

KARL JACOBY is the author of several books, including Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History (Penguin Press, 2008) and The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire (W.W. Norton, 2016). A 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, he has published essays in the Los Angeles Times, Politico, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is the Allan Nevins Professor of American History at Columbia University, where he co-directs the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.

Nell Painter headshot

NELL PAINTER is the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita at Princeton University, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, former president of the Organization of American Historians, and the author of seven books. In addition to a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, she earned a BFA from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, both in painting. Her art is in several public collections, and her writing has recently appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Washington Post.

Anna Whitelock headshot

ANNA WHITELOCK is an author, historian, royal commentator, and serves as head of the History Department at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her publications include Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen (Bloomsbury/Random House, 2008) and The Queen’s Bed: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014), which won the 2015 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography. She is finishing a book called Succession and is leading a major research project on Queen Elizabeth II and the Caribbean.


PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection ($25,000)

Ben Marcus headshot

BEN MARCUS is the author of several books, including The Age of Wire and String (Knopf, 1995), The Flame Alphabet (Knopf, 2012), and Notes from the Fog (Knopf, 2018). His stories have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New Yorker, Conjunctions, and other magazines. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy in Berlin, and the Cullman Center at The New York Public Library. He lives in New York and teaches at Columbia University.

Elizabeth McCracken headshot

ELIZABETH MCCRACKEN is the author of seven books. Her forthcoming collection of short stories, The Souvenir Museum, will be published April 2021 by HarperCollins. She has received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Liguria Study Center, the American Academy in Berlin, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Thunderstruck & Other Stories (Random House, 2014) won the 2015 Story Prize. Her work has been published in The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The New York Times Magazine, among others.


Ingrid Rojas Contreras headshot

INGRID ROJAS CONTRERAS is the author of Fruit of the Drunken Tree (Doubleday, 2018), a silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Cut, The Believer, and elsewhere. A new work of nonfiction, a family memoir about her grandfather, a curandero from Colombia who it was said had the power to move clouds, is coming from Doubleday in 2022.

PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel ($10,000)

Ramona Ausubel headshot

RAMONA AUSUBEL is the author of four books: Awayland: Stories (Penguin, 2018), Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty (Penguin, 2016), A Guide to Being Born (Penguin, 2013), and No One is Here Except All of Us (Penguin, 2013). Winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Fiction and finalist for both the California and Colorado Book Awards and The New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, her work has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, One Story, Tin House, The Paris Review’s “The Daily,” and elsewhere.

Jack Livings headshot

JACK LIVINGS is the author of the short story collection The Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), which won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, the Rome Prize for Literature, and was included on best book of the year lists in The New York Times and The Times Literary Supplement. His fiction has appeared in A Public Space, The Paris Review, Tin House, Guernica, StoryQuarterly, The Best American Short Stories, and has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes. His first novel, The Blizzard Party, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2021.


Stuart Nadler headshot

STUART NADLER is the author of the story collection, The Book of Life (Little, Brown and Company, 2011), which was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and two novels: Wise Men (Little, Brown and Company, 2013) and The Inseparables (Little, Brown and Company, 2016), which was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus and a finalist for the Mark Twain Prize for the American Voice. In 2012, he was a recipient of the 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation. He teaches at Boston College and is a faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars.


PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000)

Daniel Borzutzky headshot

DANIEL BORZUTZKY is a poet and translator. His latest books are Lake Michigan (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), finalist for the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize; The Performance of Becoming Human (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016), winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry; and Written After a Massacre in the Year 2018, forthcoming in 2021 from Coffee House Press. His translation of Galo Ghigliotto’s Valdivia won the 2017 National Translation Award. Other translations include Raúl Zurita’s The Country of Planks and Song for His Disappeared Love, and Jaime Luis Huenún’s Port Trakl. He teaches in the English and Latin American and Latino Studies Departments at the University of Illinois.

Marissa Davis headshot

MARISSA DAVIS is a poet and translator from Paducah, KY. Following years in Nashville and Paris, she now resides in Brooklyn. Her chapbook, My Name & Other Languages I am Learning How to Speak (Jai-Alai Books, 2020), was selected by Danez Smith for Cave Canem’s 2019 Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Prize. Her poetry has or will soon appear in Rattle, Poem-a-Day, Frontier Poetry, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Nimrod, and New South, among other. Her translations appear in Ezra, Mid-American Review, RHINO, The Massachusetts Review, and New England Review. Davis is an MFA student and Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellow at New York University.

Meg Matich headshot

MEG MATICH has received support for her literary translation work from PEN America, the Fulbright Program, the Icelandic Literature Center, and others. She received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for her translation of Magnús Sigurðsson’s Cold Moons (Phoneme Media, 2017). In 2018, Matich translated an anthology as a gift for the world’s first democratically elected woman president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir) and collaborated with Sigurðsson on an Icelandic poetry edition of The Cafe Review. Her translation of Þóra Hjörleifsdóttir’s Magma is forthcoming from Grove Atlantic (U.S.) and Picador (U.K.), and her translation of Auður Jónsdóttir’s Grand Mal is forthcoming in Dottir Press.


PEN Translation Prize ($3,000)

Jacqui Cornetta headshot

JACQUI CORNETTA is a multidisciplinary artist whose poems, translations, and sound projects have appeared in Circumference; A Perfect Vacuum; No, Dear Magazine; Lost & Found: CUNY Poetics Documents Initiative; Portátil; Centro Botín; and elsewhere. She is translation editor for “Not in the Original,” the translation wing of The Puerto Rico Review, a biannual journal dedicated to creating a space for Puerto Rican writers to review the past and present of Puerto Rican art and literature. She received an MFA in literary translation and creative writing from Queens College, where she now teaches.

SOMRITA URNI GANGULY is a professor, poet, and literary translator. She was a Fulbright Doctoral Research Fellow at Brown University. She was selected as an Emerging Translator by the National Centre for Writing in 2016 and showcased at the London Book Fair. She edited the first anthology of food poems Quesadilla and Other Adventures (Hawakal Publishers, 2019) and has translated Firesongs (Beebooks, 2019), Shakuni: Master of the Game (Juggernaut, 2019), among others. She is currently head of the Department of English at Maharaja Manindra Chandra College, University of Calcutta.

Ana L. Méndez-Oliver headshot

ANA L. MÉNDEZ-OLIVER is a native Puerto Rican literary scholar and translator. Since 2010, she has been the principal Spanish translator for the Department of Met Titles and the Department of Met’s Live in HD series at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, where she has translated and adapted opera libretti from English, French, and Italian to Spanish. As a literary scholar, she specializes in the role of translation as a tool of assimilation and the resistance of minority communities in the medieval and early modern periods. She is an assistant professor of Spanish at Syracuse University.

Amanda Sarasien headshot

AMANDA SARASIEN is a writer and literary translator working from Portuguese and French. Her translations have appeared or are forthcoming in The Common, Aldus, Asymptote, MAYDAY Magazine, and The Cossack Review. She reviews books, film, and art for various publications, among them The Literary Review and Reading in Translation. She is a member of the American Literary Translators Association, PEN America, Authors Guild, and Third Coast Translators Collective. She lives in Chicago.

Niloufar Talebi headshot

NILOUFAR TALEBI is an author, award-winning translator, interdisciplinary artist, and producer. Her recent projects, inspired by the Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou, are the hybrid memoir Self-Portrait in Bloom (Wisehouse, 2019) and the Abraham in Flames opera, a 2019 San Francisco Chronicle Best in Classical Music. Other projects include editor/translator of Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World (North Atlantic Books, 2008) and its theatrical performance Icarius/Rise Fire Angels (Carnegie Hall), The Plentiful Peach (Stanford Live), and Epiphany (BAM). Talebi’s 2020 article, “100 Essential Books by Iranian Writers,” was published as a five-part series on The Margins.

Sevinç Türkkan headshot

SEVINÇ TÜRKKAN teaches comparative literature and translation studies at Oberlin College. She is the coeditor of Approaches to Teaching the Works of Orhan Pamuk (The Modern Language Association of America, 2017). Her work has appeared in Reading in Translation, Comparative Literature Studies, Public Seminar, Türkisch-deutsche Studien Jahrbuch, Translation and Literature, Teaching Translation, Orhan Pamuk: Critical Essays, and elsewhere. Her translation of Aslı Erdoğan’s The Stone Building and Other Places (City Lights Publishers, 2018) was a finalist for the 2019 PEN Translation Prize. Currently, she is at work on a book manuscript titled Translation, Criticism, and the Construction of World Literature.



PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature ($50,000)

LILY HOANG is the author of five books of prose, including Changing (Fairy Tale Review Press, 2009), a recipient of a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, and A Bestiary (CSU Poetry Center, 2016), winner of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s 2015 Essay Collection Competition. She co-edited the anthology The Force of What’s Possible (Nightboat Books, 2015). In 2017, she was a Mellon Foundation Scholar-in-Residence at Rhodes University in South Africa. She is editor of Jaded Ibis Press and executive editor of HTMLGIANT.

Jhumpa Lahiri headshot

JHUMPA LAHIRI won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for her debut collection, Interpreter of Maladies (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). The Lowland (Knopf, 2013), her second novel, was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize. She has written three and translated two books in Italian and is the editor of The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories (Penguin Random House, 2020). Her many accolades include the PEN/Hemingway Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Humanities Medal, and finalist for the National Book Award. She is a professor of creative writing at Princeton University and divides her time between Princeton and Rome.

Neel Mukherjee headshot

Neel Mukherjee is the author of three novels: A Life Apart (2010), which won the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Award for Best Fiction Book; The Lives of Others (2014), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Best Novel Award, and won the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award; and A State of Freedom (2017), which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His book for the Cahier Series, Avian, was published in May 2020. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and divides his time between London and Cambridge, MA.

Elif Shafak headshot

ELIF SHAFAK is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely-read female author in Turkey. She has written 18 books, 11 of which are novels including Booker Prize-nominated 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World (Viking Press, 2019). Translated into 54 languages, Shafak is a political scientist, a women’s and LGBTQ+ rights activist, and a TED Speaker. An honorary fellow at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University, she was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


Justin Torres headshot

JUSTIN TORRES has published short fiction in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Granta, Tin House, The Washington Post, Glimmer Train, Flaunt, and elsewhere, as well as nonfiction pieces in publications including The Guardian and The Advocate. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Torres’s novel We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) has been translated into 15 languages and was recently adapted into a film. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for five Film Independent Spirit Awards.

PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award ($10,000)

Jeremy O. Harris headshot

JEREMY O. HARRIS is a writer and performer. His plays include Slave Play, Black Exhibition, “Daddy”: A Melodrama, Water Sports; Or Insignificant White Boys, and A Boy’s Company Presents: “Tell Me If I’m Hurting You.” O. Harris co-wrote A24’s upcoming film Zola with director Janicza Bravo, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. O. Harris is the 11th recipient of the Vineyard Theatre’s Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, a 2016 MacDowell Fellow, recipient of the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 Equality Award, and is under commission from Lincoln Center Theater and Playwrights Horizons. O’Harris graduated from the Yale School of Drama with an MFA in playwriting.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson headshot

RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON most recently adapted August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for Netflix to be released this fall. He directed the Broadway production of August Wilson’s Jitney, which garnered several awards for Best/Outstanding Revival including the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama League, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, along with six Tony nominations. Santiago-Hudson received a Tony Award as featured actor for his performance in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars. He made his Broadway acting debut alongside Gregory Hines in Jelly’s Last Jam. Other Broadway credits include Stick Fly and Gem of The Ocean.


Leigh Silverman headshot

LEIGH SILVERMAN has directed over 55 world premiere plays and musicals in New York, including five for Broadway. She received a Tony Award nomination and the 2019 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence for her production of Violet. Other selected credits on Broadway include: Grand Horizons, The Lifespan of a Fact, Chinglish, and Well. Off-Broadway: Soft Power, Harry Clarke, Tumacho, Hurricane Diane, Wild Goose Dreams, and Sweet Charity. Encores: Viole, The Wild Party, and Really Rosie. She is also the winner of the 2011 Obie Award and 2019 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence.

PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing ($2,500)

Patty Yumi Cottrell headshot

PATRICK COTTRELL is the author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace (McSweeney’s, 2017) which was long-listed for The Times Literary Supplement’s Republic of Consciousness Prize and won the 2017 Best First Book in the fiction category, National Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and Barnes & Noble’s 2017 Discover Award for Fiction. He is also a recipient of a 2018 Whiting Award. His work has appeared in numerous publications such as Granta; Buzzfeed; and Pets (NY Tyrant, 2020), an anthology on pets. He is on faculty at University of Denver, where he teaches prose.


Carmen Giménez Smith headshot

CARMEN GIMÉNEZ SMITH is the author of numerous poetry collections, including Be Recorder (Graywolf Press, 2019), which was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry, the PEN Open Book Award, the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She was awarded the Academy of American Poets Fellowship Prize in 2020. She is a professor of English at Virginia Tech and at Bennington College and has served as the publisher of Noemi Press since 2002. She lives in Blacksburg, VA.

John Jeremiah Sullivan headshot

JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the southern editor of The Paris Review. In 2019, he was a Guggenheim Fellow. He lives in Wilmington, NC, where he works with the nonprofit research incubator Third Person Project, dedicated to recovering the forgotten Black history of the Cape Fear country. His next book, The Prime Minister of Paradise, is forthcoming from Random House in 2022.


PEN/Jean Stein Oral History Grants ($15,000 - 2 Winners)

Chris Abani headshot

CHRIS ABANI is an acclaimed novelist and poet. His most recent books are The Secret History of Las Vegas (Penguin Books, 2014), The Face: A Memoir (Restless Books, 2016), and Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Hemingway Award, Edgar Prize, Ford Foundation/United States Artists USA Fellowship, the PEN Beyond Margins Award, a Prince Claus Award, among many honors. Born in Nigeria, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Board of Trustees Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago, IL.


Alex Kotlowitz headshot

ALEX KOTLOWITZ is the author of four books. His most recent, An American Summer (Knopf, 2019), won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. There Are No Children Here (Doubleday, 1992) was selected by The New York Public Library as one of the 150 most important books of the 20th century. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and on This American Life. His honors include an Emmy Award, two Peabody Awards, and the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Alice Wong headshot

ALICE WONG is a disabled activist, media maker, and consultant. She is the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project (DVP), an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture. Wong is the editor of Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century (Vintage Books, 2020), an anthology of essays by disabled people. Her work has been featured in many publications, including The New York Times, Vox, Catalyst, Syndicate Networki Uncanny Magazine, and most recently in PEN America for “We Will Emerge.”

PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers ($2,000 - 12 Winners)

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah headshot

NANA KWAME ADJEI-BRENYAH is The New York Times bestselling author of Friday Black (Mariner Books, 2018). He is from Spring Valley, Rockland County, NY. His work has appeared or is forthcoming from numerous publications, including The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, Literary Hub, The Paris Review, Guernica, and Longreads. He was selected by Colson Whitehead as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honorees, is the winner of the 2019 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize for best first book and the Aspen Words Literary Prize.

Kali Fajardo-Anstine headshot

KALI FAJARDO-ANSTINE is the author of Sabrina & Corina (One World, 2019), finalist for the National Book Award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection, the Story Prize, and winner of an American Book Award. Fajardo-Anstine is the 2019 recipient of the Denver Mayor’s Global Award for Excellence in Arts & Culture. Her writing has appeared in Elle; O, The Oprah Magazine; The American Scholar; Boston Review; Bellevue Literary Review; The Idaho Review; Southwestern American Literature; and elsewhere. Fajardo-Anstine has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, Tin House, and Hedgebrook. She has an MFA from the University of Wyoming and is from Denver, CO.


Beth Piatote

BETH PIATOTE is the author of the critically acclaimed debut collection The Beadworkers: Stories (Counterpoint, 2019), longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection and the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and shortlisted for the California Independent Booksellers’s Golden Poppy Award in fiction. Her work appears in Kenyon Review, Reckonings: Contemporary Short Fiction by Native American Women (Oxford University Press, 2008), and elsewhere. She is Nez Perce, enrolled with Colville Confederated Tribes, and dedicated to Nez Perce language revitalization. She is an associate professor of comparative literature and Native American studies at the University of California, Berkeley.


PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction ($25,000)

Heidi Durrow headshot

HEIDI W. DURROW is The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Algonquin Books, 2010), which received the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Essence, NPR, and The Literary Review. She has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Kathy Pories headshot

KATHY PORIES is an executive editor at Algonquin Books. She has edited the last six winners of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, for which she is also a judge. Her authors have been Alex Award winners and finalists for the National Book Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Kirkus Prize, the Story Prize, Barnes & Noble’s Discover Award, and the First Novel Prize. She received her Ph.D. in English literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Sunil Yapa headshot

SUNIL YAPA’s debut novel Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (Back Bay Books, 2016) was a finalist for the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award and named one of the best books of 2016 by Amazon, TIME Magazine, The Washington Post, Bustle, and others. The winner of the 2010 Asian American Short Story Award, Yapa’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in American Short Fiction; Guernica; Hyphen; Literary Hub; The Margins; O, The Oprah Magazine; Poets & Writers; Slice; and others. He lives in New York City and teaches online and in the Sierra Nevada low residency MFA program in Lake Tahoe.


PEN/Phyllis Naylor Grant for Children’s and Young Adult Literature ($5,000)

M.T. Anderson headshot

M.T. ANDERSON’s novels include Feed (Candlewick Press, 2002), a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge (Candlewick Press, 2018), a finalist for the National Book Award; and Octavian Nothing: The Pox Party (Candlewick Press, 2006), winner of the National Book Award. His nonfiction work includes Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (Candlewick Press, 2017), as well as articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, BBC Music, The Musical Quarterly, Slate, and Salon.

Naomi Danis headshot

NAOMI DANIS is the author of six picture books, most recently My Best Friend, Sometimes (Pow! Kids Books, 2020) and two that were praised in The New York Times Book Review: I Hate Everyone (Pow! Kids Books, 2018) and While Grandpa Naps (Pow! Kids Books, 2019). She is the managing editor of the independent nonprofit Jewish feminist quarterly magazine Lilith, where she has worked since 1989, and is a member of the PEN America Children’s and Young Adult Author Book Committee.

OLUGBEMISOLA RHUDAY-PERKOVICH is the author of 8th Grade Superzero (Scholastic Inc., 2011), which was named a Notable Book for a Global Society; Above and Beyond: Nasa’s Journey to Tomorrow (Macmillan, 2018); Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins (Quarto Kids, 2018); and the forthcoming Mae Makes Way, Saving Earth. She co-authored the NAACP Image Award-nominated Two Naomis (2018) and its sequel, Naomis Too (2020), both from Balzer + Bray. Rhuday-Perkovich has contributed to anthologies including We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices (Random House Children’s Books, 2018), and edited The Hero Next Door (Steeple Hill Books, 2009). She is a faculty member of the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing program at Pine Manor College and lives in New York City.


PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants

Kareem James Abu-Zeid headshot

KAREEM JAMES ABU-ZEID is a translator of poets and novelists from across the Arab world, as well as a professional translator from French and German. His work has received a National Endowment for the Arts  translation grant (2018), a PEN Translation Prize (2017), and the John Frederick Nims Memorial Prize for Translation (2014), among other honors. His most recent translation is Najwan Darwish’s Exhausted on the Cross (New York Review Books Poets, 2021). He is also the author of The Poetics of Adonis and Yves Bonnefoy: Poetry as Spiritual Practice, forthcoming from Lockwood Press in 2021.

Peter Constantine headshot

PETER CONSTANTINE’s recent translations include works by Augustine of Hippo, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Niccolò Machiavelli, Nikolai Gogol, and Leo Tolstoy. He is the recipient of a  Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN Translation Prize for Six Early Stories by Thomas Mann (Green Integer, 2003), and the National Translation Award for The Undiscovered Chekhov (Seven Stories Press, 2000). He is professor of translation studies and director of the Literary Translation Program at the University of Connecticut and editor-in-chief of New Poetry in Translation, as well as publisher of World Poetry Books.

Karen Emmerich headshot

KAREN EMMERICH is a translator of modern Greek literature and an associate professor of comparative literature at Princeton University, where she directs the program in translation and intercultural communication. Her translation awards include the National Translation Award in 2019 for Ersi Sotiropoulos’s What’s Left of the Night (New Vessel Press, 2018), the Best Translated Book Award in 2017 for Eleni Vakalo’s Beyond Lyricism (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017), and the PEN Poetry in Translation Award in 2014 for Yannis Ritsos’s Diaries of Exile (Archipelago, 2012).

Nicholas Glastonbury headshot

NICHOLAS GLASTONBURY is a translator of Turkish and Kurdish literature. He is also a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a coeditor of the e-zine Jadaliyya. He is the translator of Every Fire You Tend(Tilted Axis Press, 2019). He received his BA from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.

Elisabeth Jaquette headshot

ELISABETH JAQUETTE’s translations from Arabic include Minor Detail by Adania Shibli (New Directions Publishing, 2020), The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz (Melville House, 2016), and Thirteen Months of Sunrise by Rania Mamoun (Comma Press, 2019), among others. She was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Translated Literature, and her work has been nominated for the Best Translated Book Award, Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, and TA First Translation Prize. She is the executive director of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA).

Tess Lewis headshot

TESS LEWIS is a writer and translator from French and German. Her translations include works by Walter Benjamin, Philippe Jaccottet, and Peter Handke. She has received a PEN Translation Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Hudson Review, World Literature Today, The American Scholar, and Bookforum. She is an advisory editor for The Hudson Review and is co-curating the 2020 Festival Neue Literatur, New York City’s annual festival of German language literature in English.

Aditi Machado headshot

ADITI MACHADO is a poet, translator, and essayist. Her second book of poems, Emporium (Nightboat Books, 2020), received the James Laughlin Award. Her other works include the poetry collection Some Beheadings (Nightboat Books, 2017), a translation from the French of Farid Tali’s Prosopopoeia (Action Books, 2016), and several chapbooks—the most recent of which are a long poem called Rhapsody (Albion Books, 2020) and an essay titled The End, forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse. Machado’s work appears in journals like Lana Turner Journal, VOLT, Chicago Review, Western Humanities Review, and Jacket2. A former poetry editor for Asymptote (2011–2019), she works as an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati.

Sawako Nakayasu

SAWAKO NAKAYASU is an artist working with language, performance, and translation—separately and in various combinations. She has lived mostly in the United States and Japan, briefly in France and China, and translates from the Japanese. Her books include The Ants(Les Figues Press, 2014); Mouth: Eats Color—Sagawa Chika Translations, Anti-translations & Originals (Factorial Press, 2011), a multilingual work of both original and translated poetry; and Costume en Face (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015), a translation of a handwritten notebook of Tatsumi Hijikata’s dance notations. She is coeditor of A Transpacific Poetics (Litmus Press, 2017), a gathering of poetry and poetics engaging transpacific imaginaries. She teaches at Brown University.

Wanda Phipps headshot

WANDA PHIPPS, author of Field of Wanting: Poems of Desire (BlazeVOX Books, 2008) and Wake-Up Calls: 66 Morning Poems (Soft Skull Press, 2004), has been published over 100 times in English, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Arabic, Galician, and Bangla. Phipps has created theatrical productions with Yara Arts Group presented in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Siberia, and New York City; curated several reading series; and has written about the arts for Time Out New York, Paper Magazine, and She has a new book of poetry forthcoming from Autonomedia.

Jeremy Tiang headshot

JEREMY TIANG is a novelist, playwright, and translator from Chinese. His novel State of Emergency (Epigram Books, 2017) won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2018. His translations include novels by Yeng Pway Ngon, Su Wei-Chen, Yan Ge, Zhang Yueran, Lo Yi-Chin, Chan Ho-Kei, and Li Er. His plays include Salesman之死, A Dream of Red Pavilions, and translations of scripts by Chen Si’an, Wei Yu-Chia, Quah Sy Ren, and others. He lives in Flushing, Queens, and is a member of the translation collective Cedilla & Co.

Lara Vergnaud headshot

Lara Vergnaud is a translator of prose, creative nonfiction, and scholarly works from the French. Her book-length translations include Ahmed Bouanani’s The Hospital, Zahia Rahmani’s France, story of a childhood, and Yamen Manai’s The Ardent Swarm. Vergnaud’s work has been featured in The Paris Review’s “The Daily,” Literary Hub, Words Without Borders, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of two PEN/Heim Translation Fund grants and a French Voices Grand Prize, and has been nominated for the National Translation Award. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Jeffrey Zuckerman headshot

Jeffrey Zuckerman is a translator from French. His translations from French include Ananda Devi’s Eve Out of Her Ruins (Deep Vellum, 2016) and Antoine Volodine’s Radiant Terminus (Open Letter, 2017) as well as numerous texts by Marie Darrieussecq, Hervé Guibert, Régis Jauffret, and Kaija Saariaho, among others. He has been a finalist for the TA First Translation Prize and the French-American Foundation’s Translation Prize, and has won a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant and the French Voices Grand Prize.

Join us for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony!

Hosted by off-Broadway phenomenon Kara Young, the ceremony will include the live announcement of our book awards winners; the presentation of PEN America’s career achievement awards; and special guest presenters, including Lydia Davis, Jeremy O. Harris, Laurie Anderson, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson.