Founded in 2016, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award is an annual award which recognizes a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact, which has broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence. A distinguished panel of judges will nominate candidates internally. The author of the winning book receives a prize of $75,000 and is honored at the annual PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony in New York City.

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 PEN’s award seal, please write to [email protected].


The Undying, Anne Boyer (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound  

Deaf Republic, Ilya Kaminsky (Graywolf Press)
Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound  

Where Reasons End, Yiyun Li (Random House)
Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound  

The World Doesn’t Require You, Rion Amilcar Scott (Liveright)
Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound  

Rusty Brown, Chris Ware (Pantheon Graphic Library)
Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound

Judges: Marilyn Chin, Rebecca Makkai, Garth Greenwell, Michael Schaub, and William T. Vollmann  

The 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Winner will be announced live at the Literary Awards Ceremony on March 2, at The Town Hall.

Featured Honoree: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, 2019 Winner

Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Mariner Books)
Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound

Judges: Jennifer Clement, Matthew Desmond, Natalie G Diaz, Brenda Shaughnessy, Charles Yu

From the judges’ citation: “In this brilliant debut collection of short stories, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah brings a new voice to old, vexing issues that continue to haunt American life: violence, racism, consumer lust, and more. The stories that form Friday Black combine the real and surreal, the concrete and the mythological, with such awful beauty and power that readers cannot but help question the sincerity of their convictions. Adjei-Brenyah twists the 2015 Charleston church massacre into a horror story of a different order, and the shocking result makes us question why we aren’t shocked more often. The 2012 slaying of Trayvon Martin forms the basis of another story, one in which murderous rage against black men is transformed into absurd entertainment, making us realize the terrible absurdity of white masculine fear. Adjei-Brenyah displays a cool control over his prose and dialogue while allowing his imagination to abandon constraints and conventions, exploring genetic enhancement, frenzied retail work, and soft friendships. At turns horrifying and funny, tender and savage, these stories stick with you, probing the American psyche and persistently asking more of us.”

Read a transcript of Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s acceptance speech »


Please note that candidates for this Award will be nominated internally by a panel of judges. Nominations will not be accepted. Please visit our FAQ page

Who is Eligible
  • Must be published in the United States.
  • May be of any genre (fiction, memoir, essay, general nonfiction, poetry)
  • Must possess significant literary merit, illustrate great originality, and possess strong potential for lasting influence.