PEN America Literary Awards PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel

The PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel honors a debut novel of exceptional merit by an American author who has not previously published a full-length book of fiction. The Award aims to preserve the novel as an art form and to support the longevity of the writer’s literary career. The winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize intended to allow significant time and resources with which to pursue a subsequent work of fiction. 

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 [email protected]. For more information, please visit our FAQ page.

Submissions for the 2024 cycle will be accepted June 1–August 1, 2023.

Featured Winner

Judges: Zeyn Joukhadar, Téa Obreht, Daniel Torday

Detransition, Baby: A Novel, Torrey Peters (MCD)


From the judges’ citation: “Torrey Peters’s Detransition, Babywith its sharp wit, devastating clarity, and keenly observed characters, is exceptional not only for its fluid, intelligent prose, but also for the way the novel challenges dominant narratives of time and of gender that flatten and erase the rich complexity of the lives of both cis and trans people. There’s an elation, an honesty, and a verve to Peters’s voice that sounds unlike any prose in recent memory, a unique energy which keeps the narrative moving as she threads in and out of the consciousness of her unforgettable characters. Detransition, Baby is a masterful portrait of an unlikely family navigating a world that so often forecloses trans futures, three characters struggling to learn to love each other with grace, tenderness, and, when all else fails, with humor.”

2021 Finalists

Burnt SugarAvni Doshi (The Overlook Press)

Dear Miss Metropolitan: A NovelCarolyn Ferrell (Henry Holt & Company)

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: A NovelHonorée Fanonne Jeffers (Harper)

Detransition, Baby: A Novel, Torrey Peters (One World)

The Five Wounds: A NovelKirstin Valdez Quade (W.W. Norton & Company)


Previous Winners

2021 Kawai Strong Washburn for Sharks in the Time of Saviors: A Novel (MCD)

2020 Ruchika Tomar for A Prayer for Travelers (Riverhead Books)

2019 Tommy Orange for There There

2018 Weike Wang for Chemistry

2017 Yaa Gyasi for Homegoing

2016 Ottessa Moshfegh for Eileen

2015 Arna Bontemps Hemenway for Elegy on Kinderklavier

2014 NoViolet Bulawayo for We Need New Names

2013 Kevin Powers for The Yellow Birds

2012 Teju Cole for Open City

2011 Brando Skyhorse for The Madonnas of Echo Park

2010 Brigid Pasulka for A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True

2009 Michael Dahlie for A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living

2008 Joshua Ferris for Then We Came to the End

2007 Ben Fountain for Brief Encounters with Che Guevara

2006 Yiyun Li for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

2005 Chris Abani for Graceland

2004 Jennifer Haigh for Mrs. Kimble

2003 George Brownstein for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Apt. 3W

2002 Justin Cronin for Mary and O’Neil

2001 Akhil Sharma for An Obedient Father

2000 Jhumpa Lahiri for Interpreter of Maladies

1999 Rosina Lipini for Homestead

1998 Charlotte Bacon for A Private State

1997 Ha Jin for Ocean of Words

1996 Chang-rae Lee for Native Speaker

1995 Susan Power for The Grass Dancer

1994 Dagobert Gilb for The Magic of Blood

1993 Edward P. Jones for Lost in the City

1992 Louis Begley for Wartime Lies

1991 Bernard Cooper for Maps to Anywhere

1990 Mark Richard for The Ice at the Bottom of the World

1989 Jane Hamilton for The Book of Ruth

1988 Lawrence Thornton for Imagining Argentina

1987 Mary Ward Brown for Tongues of Flame

1986 Alan V. Hewat for Lady’s Time

1985 Josephine Humphreys for Dreams of Sleep

1984 Joan Chase for During the Reign of the Queen of Persia

1983 Bobbie Ann Mason for Shiloh and Other Stories

1982 Marilynne Robinson for Housekeeping

1981 Joan Silber for Household Words

1980 Alan Saperstein for Mom Kills Kids and Self

1979 Reuben Bercovitch for Hasen

1978 Darcy O’Brien for A Way of Life, Like Any Other

1977 Renata Adler for Speedboat

1976 Loyd Little for Parthian Shot


  • The work must be a candidate’s absolute first novel and published by a U.S. trade publisher between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022. The writer may have previously published books in other genres. 
  • Eligible books must be written by a single, living author.
  • Publishers may submit galleys or manuscripts for consideration if the book is not yet published.
  • Candidates must be U.S. residents and/or citizens permanently residing in the United States.
  • There are no restrictions on the candidate’s age or on the style of their work as long as it is a full-length work of fiction.
  • 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 [email protected]. 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 [email protected] to your address book, as it will be the main point of contact from PEN America.