Meet the 2023 Literary Awards Judges
PEN America’s 2023 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 2023 PEN America Literary Awards judges.
PEN/Jean Stein Book Award ($75,000)
Lauren Groff is the author of six books, including the National Book Award Finalists Matrix, Florida, and Fates and Furies. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.
Photo Credit: Eli Sinkus
Joan Naviyuk Kane is Inupiaq from Ugiuvak and Qawiaraq. Her ten books of poetry and prose have been supported by fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute, Brown’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, the Rasmuson Foundation, the School for Advanced Research, and the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She has received the Whiting Writers Award, the United States Artists Creative Vision Award, and the Donald Hall Prize. She raises her children in Cambridge and is visiting assistant professor and visiting poet at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
Photo Credit: Jenny Irene Miller
Madeleine Thien is the author of four books of fiction, most recently Do Not Say We Have Nothing. She has received Canada’s two highest literary honors, the Giller Prize and the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction, and her books have been shortlisted for The Booker Prize, The Women’s Prize for Fiction, and The Folio Prize, longlisted for a Carnegie Medal, and translated into more than 25 languages. Her essays and stories can be found in The New Yorker, Granta, Brick, The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. She teaches writing and literature at Brooklyn College CUNY.
Photo credit: Rawi Hage
PEN Open Book Award ($10,000)
Jennifer Baker is a publishing professional of 20 years, creator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and faculty at Bay Path University’s Creative Nonfiction MFA Program. She has been awarded grants by the New York State Council of the Arts and Queens Council for the Arts. She is the editor of Everyday People: The Color of Life and has an upcoming YA novel Forgive Me Not, forthcoming in 2023. Her website is: jennifernbaker.com.
Photo Credit: Gabby Deimeke
Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You, a New York Times Editor’s Choice that was also longlisted for the Story Prize. His first book, We Cast a Shadow, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the PEN America Open Book Prize. Ruffin is the winner of several literary prizes, including the Iowa Review Award in Fiction. A New Orleans native, Ruffin is a professor of creative writing at Louisiana State University, and the 2020-2021 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.
Photo Credit: Vaughn D. Taylor
Nina McConigley was born in Singapore and raised in Wyoming. Her short story collection Cowboys and East Indians was the winner of the 2014 PEN Open Book Award and a High Plains Book Award. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, Orion, O, Oprah Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, and American Short Fiction. In 2019-2020, was the Walter Jackson Bate Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and is a 2022 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Creative Writing Fellowship. She teaches at Colorado State University.
Photo Credit: Tony Rinaldo
Erika L. Sánchez is the author of Lessons on Expulsion, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, and Crying in the Bathroom. She is the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Chair at DePaul University in Chicago.
Photo Credit: Adriana Diaz
PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection ($25,000)
Christopher Gonzalez is the author of the short story collection I’m Not Hungry but I Could Eat. A New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA) Artist in Fiction Fellow, his stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Best Small Fictions 2019 and Best Microfiction 2021. He is a co-editor of fiction for Barrelhouse magazine and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Photo Credit: Ashley Pecorelli
Susan Muaddi Darraj‘s novel-in-stories, A Curious Land, earned an American Book Award and was a finalist for a Palestine Book Award. In 2018, she was named a Ford Fellow by USA Artists. A past winner of the Maryland State Art Council’s Independent Artist Award, Susan is also the author of Farah Rocks, the first children’s book series to feature a Palestinian-American character. She lives in Baltimore and teaches at Johns Hopkins University.
Photo Credit: Matthew D’Agostino
Nafissa Thompson-Spires wrote Heads of the Colored People, which won the PEN Open Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Award, and the LA Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Heads was longlisted for the National Book Award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Award, and other prizes. She won a 2019 Whiting Award. She earned a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt and an MFA from University of Illinois. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, Ploughshares, 400 Souls, The 1619 Project, and elsewhere. She’s currently the Richards Family Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Cornell University.
Photo Credit: Adrianne Mathiowetz
PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel ($10,000)
Gina Apostol won the 2022 Rome Prize to work on a novel-in-progress, The Treatment of Paz. Her forthcoming book, La Tercera, will be published in May 2023. Publishers’ Weekly named her last book, Insurrecto, one of the Ten Best Books of 2018. Gun Dealers’ Daughter won the 2013 PEN/Open Book Award. Her first two books, Bibliolepsy and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, both won the Philippine National Book Award. She grew up in Tacloban, Leyte, in the Philippines and lives in New York City and western Massachusetts. She teaches at the Fieldston School in NYC.
Photo Credit: Margarita Corporan
Oscar Cásares is the author of the story collection Brownsville, and the novels Amigoland and Where We Come From, which earned him fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation in 2020 and the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006. His writing focuses on the U.S.-Mexico border, where he grew up and his family began to settle in the mid 1800s. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Texas Monthly, and on National Public Radio. He teaches creative writing at the University of Texas in Austin.
Photo Credit: Joel Salcido
Matthew Salesses was adopted from Korea. He is the author of four novels, including The Sense of Wonder – to be published by Little, Brown in January 2023–and PEN/Faulkner finalist Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear. He also wrote the national bestseller, Craft in the Real World. He lives in New York City, where he is an assistant professor at Columbia University.
Photo Credit: Grace Salesses
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($15,000)
Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History and Affiliate Professor of Law at Harvard University. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her many books include, These Truths: A History of the United States, an international bestseller, named one of Time magazine’s top ten non-fiction books of the decade. Her new book, The Deadline, will be published in 2023. She is currently working on a long-term research project called Amend, a data collection of attempts to amend the U.S. Constitution, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
John McWhorter teaches linguistics at Columbia University, as well as music history. He specializes in language change and language contact. He has written extensively on linguistics, race, and other topics for most leading publications including having been Contributing Editor at The Atlantic. He is the author of The Power of Babel, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, The Language Hoax, Nine Nasty Words, and Woke Racism. He hosts the Lexicon Valley language podcast, has authored six audiovisual sets on language for the Great Courses company, and writes a weekly newsletter for The New York Times.
Photo Credit: Eileen Barrosso
Simon Winchester is the author of some 33 books of non-fiction on topics ranging from dictionaries to volcanoes, oceans to land ownership, precision engineering to China, the transmission of knowledge to travels in Korea. Since 2022, he has been editor of Lapham’s Quarterly. He is based in the Berkshires, 120 miles north of New York City. Originally from Dorset, UK, Simon Winchester was naturalized as an American citizen in 2012.
Photo Credit: Rupert Winchester
PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection ($5,000)
Kimiko Hahn is the author of ten collections of poems, most recently Foreign Bodies ,and seven chapbooks. She is a distinguished professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College, City University of New York. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Guggenheim Foundation, and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation. In 2008, she was honored with the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry.
Photo Credit: Harold Schechter
Molly McCully Brown is the author of the 2017 poetry collection The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, which won the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and was a New York Times Critics Top Book of 2017, and the 2020 essay collection Places I’ve Taken My Body (Persea Books, 2020), which was named one of Kirkus Review’s top books of 2020. With Susannah Nevison, she is also the co-author of the poetry collection, In The Field Between Us. She lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where she teaches in the MFA program at Old Dominion University.
Photo Credit: Civitella Ranieri Foundation
Willie Perdomo is the author of Smoking Lovely: The Remix, The Crazy Bunch, The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, and Where a Nickel Costs of Dime. Winner of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Cy Twombly Award for Poetry, the New York City Book Award, and a PEN Open Book Award, Perdomo was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award. He teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy and was recently appointed State Poet of New York, 2021-2023.
Photo Credit: Sandra Guzmán
Alison C. Rollins was named a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow in 2019. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, The New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere. In 2018, she was a recipient of the Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award and in 2020, the winner of a Pushcart Prize. A Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow, she was a 2016 recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship. Her debut poetry collection, Library of Small Catastrophes (Copper Canyon Press, 2019) was a 2020 Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award nominee.
PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000)
Baba Badji is a poet and translator; he earned his MFA in poetry and translation at Columbia University and received his Ph.D. in comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis. His recently published poetry collection, Ghost Letters was longlisted for the National Book Award. Badji’s research and writing center on the links between the various forms of postcolonial studies, theory, and practice; slavery afterlives; decoloniality with a particular focus on debates about postcolonial translation theory and négritude in Anglophone and Francophone cultures.
Photo Credit: Washington University in St. Louis
Mona Kareem is a stateless poet born in Kuwait, and currently based in Boston. She is the author of three poetry collections and the recipient of a 2021 National Endowment of the Arts literary grant. She holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Her translations include Ashraf Fayadh’s Instructions Within, which was nominated for a Best Translated Book Award, Ra’ad Abdulqadir’s Except for this Unseen Thread, and Octavia Butler’s Kindred.
Julia Leverone is the translator of the book Of Selected Poems of Francisco Urondo, Fuel and Fire, published with a grant from the government of Argentina. She also has two chapbooks of poetry: Shouldering and Little Escape, which won the JMWW Claudia Emerson Poetry Chapbook Award. Her translations have appeared in Gulf Coast, Witness, Boston Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Poetry Daily. Julia is the founder and editor of the online magazine of poetry in translation AzonaL. She is a native of Massachusetts and teaches Spanish at the university level.
PEN Translation Prize ($3,000)
Layla Benitez-James is a 2022 National Endowment of the Arts fellow in translation, author of God Suspected My Heart Was a Geode but He Had to Make Sure, and winner of Cave Canem’s Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize. Their creative work has been published in World Literature Today, Black Femme Collective, Virginia Quarterly Review, Latino Book Review, Acentos Review, and Asymptote Journal, and poetry translations are forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Modern Poetry in Translation, and Poetry London. She is a 2022-2023 National Book Critics Circle fellow and has written reviews for The Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Books.
Photo Credit: Reggie James
Slava Faybysh is based in Chicago and translates from Russian and Spanish. His co-translation with Ellen Vayner of Chins Up! Shoulders Back!, by Kazakh playwright Ainur Karim, won the 2022 ALTA Plays in Translation contest. In addition, this play will be included in a volume of his co-translations of New Kazakh Plays, forthcoming in late 2024 from Glagoslav Publications. His first full-length nonfiction translation, The July Revolution: Barcelona 1909, by Leopoldo Bonafulla, was published in 2021 by AK Press.
Sora Kim-Russell is a biracial Korean-American literary translator. She has translated work by prominent writers such as Pyun Hye-young, Hwang Sok-yong, and Kim Un-su, among others. Her translation of Pyun’s novel, The Hole won the 2017 Shirley Jackson Award, and her short fiction translations have appeared in The New Yorker and in Harper’s Magazine. Sora has taught literary translation at Ewha Womans University, the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, and the Bread Loaf Translators Conference, and served as a prose mentor for the American Literary Translators Association.
Photo Credit: Hee Jean Kim
Elton Uliana is a Brazilian translator based in London. He is the co-editor of the Brazilian Translation Club at University College London. His published work includes essays on Translation Theory (AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies), short stories by Carla Bessa (Asymptote, Oxford Anthology of Translation, Your Impossible Voice), Mário Araújo (Asymptote), Jacques Fux (128Lit), as well as forthcoming translations of short stories by Conceição Evaristo, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Alê Motta and Carla Bessa (Machetes Under Our Beds, Amistad/HarperCollins).
Photo Credit: Ben Złotowski
PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000)
Tim Folger has been writing about science for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Discover, and other national publications. From 2002 through 2018 he was the series editor for The Best American Science and Nature Writing, an annual anthology published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. His National Geographic cover story about the disastrous 2011 Japanese tsunami won the Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism.
David L. Hu is a professor of mechanical engineering and biology at Georgia Tech. He is the author of How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls, which was a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru Prize for Best Science Book for Young Adults and winner of the American Institute of Physics Science Communication Award. His next book, The P Word, is for children and will be published by Science Naturally in 2023. He won two Ig Nobel Prizes for his research on the urination time of mammals and for why wombats make cube-shaped poo.
Photo Credit: Candler Hobbs
Emily Raboteau is the author of The Professor’s Daughter and Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora, winner of the American Book Award. Her next book, Lessons for Survival, will be published by Holt in 2023. She is a regular contributor at the New York Review of Books and a contributing editor at Orion Magazine. She teaches creative writing at the City College of New York, in Harlem, and lives with her family in the Bronx.
Photo Credit: Eneida Cardona
PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000)
Manu Bhagavan, Professor of History, Human Rights, and Public Policy at Hunter College and the Graduate Center-CUNY, is author or editor of seven books, including the critically acclaimed The Peacemakers: India and the Quest for One World and a collection on India and the Cold War. He has just completed a biography of Madame Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, one of the most significant and celebrated women of the twentieth century.
Photo credit: Dev Benegal
Silvana Paternostro is a Colombian-born journalist. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the Paris Review, Vogue, and Time, among other publications, and she is the author of In the Land of God and Man, a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award. In 1999 she was selected by Time/CNN as one of the fifty Latin American leaders for the millennium for her innovative voice. Her latest book Solitude & Company, an oral history of Gabriel García Márquez has been translated into more than seven languages.
PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction ($10,000)
Sanjiv Bhattacharya is a journalist whose work has appeared in Esquire, GQ, the L.A. Times, the Guardian and the Observer. He has been shortlisted three times for the UK’s PPA Consumer Magazine Writer of the Year Award and his first book, Secrets & Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy spawned a Channel Four documentary. Originally from London, he has been an editor in India and is now based in Los Angeles, where he teaches nonfiction at Pacific University.
Photo credit: Louella Allen
Geraldo Cadava is the Wender-Lewis Professor of Teaching and Research at Northwestern University, Director of the American Studies Program, Co-Editor-in-Chief of Public Books, and author of The Hispanic Republican and Standing on Common Ground. His next book, a narrative history of Latinos in the United States, will be published by Crown in 2026. His teaching and writing focus on Latinos in the United States, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and migration to and from Latin America.
Sofija Stefanovic is a Serbian-Australian writer based in Manhattan. She is the author of the memoir Miss Ex-Yugoslavia and the editor of the anthology Alien Nation: 36 True Tales of Immigration. She hosts This Alien Nation—a celebration of immigration at the Public Theater in New York City. She teaches creative nonfiction, and is a regular storyteller with The Moth. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times among other publications.
PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers ($2,000 to 12 Winners)
Works by Venita Blackburn have appeared in the Atlantic, thenewyorker.com, Harper’s, Ploughshares, McSweeney’s, the Paris Review and others. She received the Prairie Schooner book prize in fiction for her collected stories, Black Jesus and Other Superheroes in 2017. She is founder of the literary nonprofit Live, Write (livewriteworkshop.com). Blackburn’s second collection of stories is How to Wrestle a Girl, 2021, finalist for a Lambda Literary Prize. She is an Associate Professor of creative writing at California State University, Fresno.
Photo credit: Dave Lehl
Richard Chiem is the author of You Private Person (Sorry House Classics, 2017), and the novel, King of Joy (Soft Skull, 2019), which was long listed for the 2020 PEN Open Book Award. He was named a 2019 Writer to Watch by the Los Angeles Times. He has taught at Hugo House and Catapult. He lives in Seattle.
Photo credit: Melissa Kagerer
Dantiel W. Moniz is the recipient of a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Award, a Pushcart Prize, a MacDowell Fellowship, and the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction. Her debut collection, Milk Blood Heat was a finalist for the PEN/ Jean Stein Award, the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, as well as longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Moniz is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches fiction.
Photo credit: Jason D. Moniz
PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History ($15,000 to two winners)
Alissa Rae Funderburk is the Mellon Foundation Oral Historian for the Jackson State University Margaret Walker Center in Mississippi where she maintains an oral history archive dedicated to the preservation of African American history and culture. She holds a master’s from Columbia University’s Oral History Master of Arts Program and received her bachelor’s from Columbia College. She is an OHA council member, and creator of the Black Oral Historian Network. For more, visit alissaraefunderburk.com.
Photo Credit: Charles Smith
Sarah Schulman is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, nonfiction writer, and gay rights activist. She is the author of twenty books including The Cosmopolitans and Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP, New York, 1987-1993. For the latter, she was the recipient of the 2022 Lambda Literary LGBTQ Nonfiction Award, the 2022 NLGJA Excellence in Book Writing Award, and was named a Finalist for the 2022 PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. Schulman is additionally a Guggenheim Fellow in Playwriting among her other accolades, Her plays include Carson McCullers, Manic Flight Reaction, Enemies A Love Story (adapted for the theater from I.B Singer’s piece), and The Lady Hamlet.
Photo Credit: Drew Stephens
Sara Sinclair is an oral historian of Cree-Ojibwa and mixed settler descent. Sara teaches in the oral history master of arts program at Columbia University. She is project director of the Aryeh Neier Oral History Project at Columbia Center for Oral History Research [CCOHR]. Sara is currently co-editing two anthologies of Indigenous letters, for Penguin/Random House Canada. She is the editor of How We Go Home: Voices from Indigenous North America and co-editor of Robert Rauschenberg: An Oral History.
PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants
Jenny Bhatt is a writer, translator, book critic, and creative writing instructor. She is the founder of Desi Books. Her debut collection, Each of Us Killers, won a 2020 Foreword INDIES award. Her debut translation, Ratno Dholi: The Best Stories of Dhumketu, was a finalist for a PFC-Valley of Words award. She resides in the Dallas, Texas area.
Photo Credit: Praveen Ahuja
Deborah Ghim has worked as a literary scout and in editorial at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, where she edited Christina Sharpe, Virginie Despentes, Pankaj Mishra, and Antonio Muñoz Molina, among others. As an editor at Astra House, she has acquired and edited Dogs of Summer by Andrea Abreu, translated by Julia Sanches, and Y/N, the forthcoming debut novel by Esther Yi. Her other authors include National Magazine Award for Fiction winner Michael Deagler; Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Sean Michaels; Fátima Vélez; Celina Baljeet Basra, and Theodore McCombs. She is fluent in Korean.
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 co-editor of the e-zine Jadaliyya. His translation of Sema Kaygusuz’s novel, Every Fire You Tend won the 2020 TA First Translation Prize from the Society of Authors.
Photo Credit: Jesse DeFrancesco
Kira Josefsson is a writer, editor, and translator working between English and Swedish. The winner of a PEN/Heim grant, she translates some of the most interesting contemporary Swedish voices, like Hanna Johansson, Quynh Tran, Ia Genberg, and Johanna Hedman. Based in Queens, New York, she serves on the editorial board for Glänta, a journal of arts and politics, and regularly writes on US events in the Swedish press.
Thomas J. Kitson translates from Russian. His translation of Iliazd’s Rapture won a Read Russia Prize Special Mention in 2018 and he received a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship for Iliazd’s PhiloSophia. He lives in New York City.
Lina Mounzer is a Lebanese writer and translator. She contributes regularly to The New York Times and her work has appeared in The Paris Review, The Economist Magazine, and The Baffler, as well as in the anthologies Hikayat: Short Stories by Lebanese Women (Telegram Books: 2007), Tales of Two Planets (Penguin: 2020), and Best American Essays 2022 (Harper Collins: 2022).
Photo credit: Fadi Baki
Kaitlin Rees is a translator, editor, and teacher based in New York City with reachings toward Hanoi. She translates from the Vietnamese of Nhã Thuyên, with whom she co-founded AJAR, the small bilingual journal-presse and occasional poetry festival. Her full length translated collections include moon fevers, words breathe, creatures of elsewhere, and the approaching book of poetry, taste of water.
Jordan A. Y. Smith translates (mostly) contemporary Japanese poetry, and serves as VP of Content Production at Naro.tv, creating courses with leaders of various industries in Japan. Until recently, Smith worked as a professor of comparative literature and Japanese studies at several universities in the U.S. and Japan. Additionally, he was editor-in-chief for Tokyo Poetry Journal, director of the poetry-tech collective Cōem, co-founder of KOTOBA, the national poetry slam of Japan. Producer/host for BBC Radio on Japanese poetry and culture, and the author of poetry volume Syzygy.
Alex Valente (he/him) is a white European currently living on xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ land. He is a literary translator working between Italian and English, though he also dabbles with French and RPGs, and is co-editor of The Norwich Radical. His work has been published in NYT Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, The Short Story Project, and PEN Transmissions.
Jeffrey Zuckerman is a translator of French, including books by the artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Dardenne brothers, the queer writers Jean Genet and Hervé Guibert, and the Mauritian novelists Ananda Devi, Shenaz Patel, and Carl de Souza. A graduate of Yale University, he has been a finalist for the TA First Translation Prize and the French-American Foundation Translation Prize, and a winner of the French Voices Grand Prize. In 2020 he was named a Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
Photo Credit: Carl de Souza
PEN/Phyllis Naylor Grant for Children’s and Young Adult Novelists ($5,000)
Samira Ahmed is the bestselling author of Love, Hate & Other Filters, Internment, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, Hollow Fires, and the Amira & Hamza middle-grade duology, as well as a Ms. Marvel comic book mini-series. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies including The New York Times, Take the Mic, Color Outside the Lines, Vampires Never Get Old and A Universe of Wishes. Samira was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in Batavia, Illinois, in a house that smelled like fried onions, spices, and potpourri.
Photo Credit: Erielle Bakkum
Varian Johnson is the author of several novels for children and young adults, including The Parker Inheritance, which won both Coretta Scott King Author Honor and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor awards; The Great Greene Heist, an ALA Notable Children’s book and Kirkus Reviews Best Book; and the graphic novel Twins, illustrated by Shannon Wright, an NPR Best Book and Eisner Award Nominee. Varian received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he now serves as a member of the faculty, and currently lives outside of Austin, TX with his family.
Photo Credit: Kenneth Gall
Susan Kuklin is an author and photographer of nonfiction books for children and young adults. Her recent books are, No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row; Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, a Stonewall Honor Book; We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults, which won the International Latino Book Nonfiction Award; and In Search of Safety, Voices of Refugees. Susan is a former co-chair of PEN’s Children and Young Adult Books committee. Her photographs have appeared in print media, documentary films, and are part of the permanent collection at the Museum of the City of New York.
Photo Credit: Bailey H Kuklin