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: June 1, 2019 – August 15, 2019
Longlists Announced: December 2019
Shortlists Announced: January 2020
Awards Ceremony: February 2020
Featured Honoree: Imani Perry, 2019 Winner
From the judges’ citation: “Lorraine Hansberry packed a lot of ambition into a short life. When she died in 1965, at only 34 years old, she was already a New York legend: her award-winning drama, A Raisin in the Sun, about a black family living in segregated Chicago, became the first ever play by a black woman to debut on Broadway. But she did much more than write plays: Hansberry was also a devoted civil rights activist and venerated public intellectual, and a friend and colleague of James Baldwin, W.E.B DuBois, Nina Simone, and Malcolm X. Imani Perry’s Looking For Lorraine celebrates Hansberry, in all her accomplishments and appetites, but it does not shy away from the complexities and entanglements that made Hansberry’s life story as dramatic and serpentine as one of her plays. Perry approaches her subject with both empathy and a sharp, critical eye; this is a biography that exercises several muscles at once. Perry’s sentences are intimate, warm, and crisp; in considering Hansberry in all of her prismatic multiplicities, Perry has written a singular book.”
2019 Imani Perry, Looking for Lorraine (Beacon Press)
2013 Tom Reiss, The Black Count (Broadway Brooks)
Gordon Bowker, James Joyce (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
2012 Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Random House)
Janny Scott, A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother (Riverhead Books/Penguin)
2010 Michael Scammell, Koestler (Random House)
2009 Richard Brody, Everything is Cinema (Picador)
2008 Janet Malcolm, Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice (Yale University Press)
Submissions for the 2021 cycle will be open June 1, 2020 — August 15, 2020.
- A candidate’s book of nonfiction must have been published in the United States between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019.
- Candidates need not be U.S. residents.
- Books must be works by an author about 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 is not considered a PEN America Literary Award.
- Self-published books
- Memoir or autobiography
- PEN America will only accept submissions from publishers or literary agents. Authors may not submit their own book for this award.
- Please download the Declaration of Eligibility. Complete all fields and have a company executive sign in order to confirm the book’s eligibility. If eligible, please upload the form along with the rest of your application here. If the book does not meet all of the listed eligibility requirements, the book will not be considered for this award.
- Each submission is $85*. If you would like to pay by check, please enter CHECK in the coupon code field at checkout. Checks should be made out to PEN America. Please also submit a verified email address on the submission form; this info will be used to later contact you regarding the shipments of your submission. Please note that submission fees are not refundable.
- Mail one copy of the candidate’s book, galley, or bound manuscript to the below address during the open submission period.
PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, NY 10012
- Once the submitted book is received and reviewed for eligibility, [email protected] requests a copy to be shipped to the judges.
*Submission fees may be waived for publishers whose annual net sales are less than $2 million. In order to have your dues waived, please have a company official write a letter on company letterhead stating that your press’ annual net sales are less than $2 million. Please send this letter as an attachment (.doc or .pdf) to [email protected]. Once received, you will be provided with a coupon code to use at check-out in order to have your submission fees waived. One fee waiver may be used for all 2020 PEN America Awards; you do not need to submit a separate fee waiver for each award.