PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography is awarded for excellence in the art of biography. This prize of $5,000 goes to the author of a distinguished work published in the United States during the previous calendar year. The winning title is considered by the judges to be a work of exceptional literary, narrative, and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research.

All winners, finalists, and longlisters for this award are eligible to receive PEN America’s official emblems. If you are a publisher and interested in obtaining PEN America’s award emblem, please write to awards@pen.org. For more information, please visit our FAQ page.

Submissions for the 2023 cycle are now open and will close on August 1, 2022. Submit here.

Featured Winner

Judges: Luke Dittrich, Paul Golob, Imani Perry

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler, Rebecca Donner (Little Brown and Company)

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From the judges’ citation: “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days by Rebecca Donner is not just an exemplary biography but also a propulsive, page-turning spy thriller and a rigorous, groundbreaking new history of German resistance networks during World War II. At the book’s heart is Mildred Harnack, a Wisconsin-born academic who in 1932 became the leader of a secret, Berlin-based anti-fascist group called ‘The Circle.’ Harnack spent the next decade navigating a dark, paranoid, Le Carré-ian world of dead drops, coded messages, and smuggled radios, all while struggling to stay a step ahead of the Gestapo. Donner is Harnack’s great-great-niece, but she doesn’t dwell on this connection, keeping the narrative rooted firmly in its historical context and centered on the life of this remarkable woman. With vivid, lyrical writing built on a foundation of extraordinarily deep research, Donner provides an intimate view of Harnack’s transformation from a restless and somewhat aimless graduate student into an enemy of the Nazi regime so potent that she earned the personal animus of Adolf Hitler. Early on, when describing Harnack’s destruction of a potentially incriminating journal, Donner writes, “Her goal was self-erasure. The more invisible she was, the better her chances for survival.” Now, with this mesmerizing, unforgettable book, Donner has undone that erasure, and ensured that the astonishing story of a great and complicated hero will survive for years to come.”

2021 Finalists

The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness, Katie Booth (Simon & Schuster)
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All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler, Rebecca Donner (Little Brown and Company)
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Albert and the Whale: Albrecht Dürer and How Art Imagines Our World , Philip Hoare (Pegasus Books)
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The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky, Andrew D. Kaufman (Riverhead Books)
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Orwell’s Roses, Rebecca Solnit (Viking)
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Eligibility

  • A candidate’s biography must have been published by a trade publisher in the United States between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022.
  • Eligible books must be written by a single, living author.
  • Candidates need not be U.S. residents or citizens.
  • Books must be works by an author about another person. Memoir and autobiography are ineligible, unless the work significantly focuses on the life of another person.
  • If you submit a book for this award, you may not submit it for any additional PEN America Literary Award, with the exception of the PEN Open Book Award. Please note that the PEN/Faulkner Award is not considered a PEN America Literary Award.
  • Self-published books are not eligible.

Submission Guidelines

  • PEN America will only accept submissions from publishers or literary agents. Authors may not submit their own book for this award.
  • On the submission form, please select the award you are submitting to.
  • Please submit verified email addresses on the submission form. Your order cannot be processed without an email address, and this information will be used to later contact you regarding your submission.
  • Upload a PDF file of the galley or final manuscript on the book submissions form. Following pandemic-related protocols, book award submissions will be read as PDF files. Please upload the file saved as BOOKTITLE_AUTHORNAME. For the judges’ convenience, please upload a book file WITHOUT watermarks. Each book file will be kept confidentially between the Literary Awards team and the awards judges. Please note that if a book is longlisted, PEN America may request a physical copy be sent to the judging panel.
  • Upload a high-resolution book jacket photo. This may be used later if the book is longlisted, a finalist, or a winner.
  • Please download the declaration of eligibility. Complete all fields and have the editor or publisher sign to confirm the book’s eligibility. Please upload this document along with the rest of your application on the submission form.
  • Each submission is $85. Please note that due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19, we are asking that all submissions payments be made via credit card. Submission fees are not refundable.
  • Submission fees may be waived for publishers whose annual net sales are less than $2 million. In order to have fees waived, have a company official write a letter on company letterhead stating that the press’s annual net sales are less than $2 million. Please send this letter as a PDF attachment to awards@pen.org. Do not submit before emailing this document to the Literary Awards team, as they will provide you with an alternative submission method.
  • Once the submitted book is received and reviewed for eligibility by PEN America, it will be passed along to the judges. Please add awards@pen.org to your address book, as it will be the main point of contact from PEN America.