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 and finalists for this award are eligible to receive PEN America’s official winner or finalist seal. If you are a publisher of a shortlisted or winning book for this award and are interested in obtaining the PEN America award seal, please write to [email protected].


Current Cycle: 2020

Honoring books published in 2019.

Submissions for the 2021 cycle open June 1, 2020.

JUDGES: David W. Blight, Yunte Huang, Miriam Pawel, Rebecca Walker, Shawn Wen

2020 Finalists

Oliver Wendell Holmes: A Life in War, Law, and Ideas, Stephen Budiansky (W. W. Norton & Company)
Hudson | IndieBound

Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures, Adina Hoffman (Yale University Press)
Hudson | IndieBound

Sontag: Her Life and Work, Benjamin Moser (Ecco)
Hudson | IndieBound

Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution, Helen Zia (Ballantine Books)
Hudson | IndieBound 

2020 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award Finalists

Featured Winner: Jacquelyn Dowd Hall

Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall (W. W. Norton & Company)
Hudson | IndieBound

From the judges’ citation: “Jacquelyn Dowd Hall has written a true achievement indicative of amazing research. Hall’s interviews with Katherine Lumpkin go back to the 1970s, and the book is carefully layered, weaving all three sisters’ lives into one narrative. Hall develops all three of them with empathy and sympathy. The sister Katherine is the progressive radical and most admirable, but both Grace and Elizabeth come to life in all manner of ways. All of them speak in their own words, their own writings, and above all, Hall writes with clarity and verve. This is a story of worlds partly vanished, but not entirely, and is one of the deepest dives into the makings and workings of the Lost Cause tradition one will ever find. The work is about the particular world that shaped these three women in Georgia and the larger South of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but it is an American story of family, women’s spheres and how they were broken, of women’s professionalism, and of women authors both representing traditions they could not overcome and some they also smashed. In its entirety, the book is written with grace and beauty. This is history from deep in the archives and from a trained imagination.”

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Sisters and Rebels

Eligibility and Submission Guidelines

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