PEN America Literary Awards Open Book Award

The PEN Open Book Award, formerly the Beyond Margins Awards, invites submissions of book-length writings by authors of color, published in the United States during the current calendar year. Works of fiction, literary nonfiction, biography/memoir, poetry, and other works of literary character are strongly preferred. The award confers a $5,000 prize upon an author of color. U.S. residency or citizenship is not required.

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 America’s 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: Ali Eteraz, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Dawn Lundy Martin, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, Camille Rankine, Héctor Tobar

2020 Finalists

Build Yourself a Boat, Camonghne Felix (Haymarket Books)
Hudson | IndieBound

Be Recorder, Carmen Giménez Smith (Graywolf Press)
Hudson | IndieBound

Erou, Maya Phillips (Four Way Books)
Hudson | IndieBound

We Cast a Shadow, Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World)
Hudson | IndieBound

2020 PEN Open Book Award Cropped

Featured Winner: Brandon Shimoda

The Grave on the Wall, Brandon Shimoda (City Lights Books)
Hudson | IndieBound

From the judges’ citation: “Brandon Shimoda’s The Grave on the Wall is a wondrous feat of memory work, reportage, and writing. In a series of pilgrimages to landscapes on both sides of the Pacific Ocean—deserts, graveyards, deserted villages—Shimoda reconstructs the many journeys of his Japanese-American family. He begins with a search for his grandfather’s roots, and unfolds an intimate story of longing and reinvention. Gradually, a picture emerges of the tenacity and pain endured by a people scattered around the globe by chance, by need, and by their own hopes and ambitions. Written with a poet’s ear for lyricism, The Grave on the Wall is a meditation of the act of remembering, containing within its pages the plots of many novels and the haunting imagery of dreams. Brandon Shimoda has penned a beautiful and powerful work of nonfiction, while remaining unafraid to confront the injustice and state-supported acts of violence at the center of his tale.”

Brandon Shimoda, The Grave On The Wall

History

Previous Winners

(This award was formerly called the PEN Beyond Margins Award.)

2019 Nafissa Thompson-Spires, The Heads of the Colored People (Atria)

2018 Alexis Okeowo, A Moonless, Starless Sky (Hachette)

2017 Helen Oyeyemi, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House)

2016 Rick Barot, Chord (Sarabande Books)

2015 Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press)

2014 Nina McConigley, Cowboys and East Indians (FiveChapter Books)
Ruth Ellen Kocher, domina Un/blued (Tupelo Press)

2013 Gina Apostol, Gun Dealers’ Daughter (W.W. Norton)
Kevin Young, The Grey Album (Graywolf Press)

2012 Siddhartha Deb, The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India (Faber & Faber)

2011 Manu Joseph, Serious Man (W. W. Norton & Company)

2010 Sherwin Bitsui, Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press)
Robin D.G. Kelley, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Free Press)
Canyon Sam, Sky Train: Tibetan Women on the Edge of History (University of Washington Press)

2009 Uwem Akpan, Say You’re One of Them (Back Bay Books)
Juan Felipe Herrera, Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press)
Lily Hoang, Changing (Fairy Tale Review Press)

2008 Chris Abani, Song for Night (Akashic Books)
Amiri Baraka, Tales of the Out and the Gone (Akashic Books)
Frances Hwang, Transparency (Back Bay Books)
Naeem Murr, The Perfect Man (Random House Trade Paperbacks)
Joseph M. Marshall III, The Day the World Ended at Little Big Horn (Penguin Books)

2007 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (Anchor)
Ernest Hardy, Blood Beats, Vol. 1 (Redbone Press)
Harryette Mullen, Recyclopedia (Graywolf Press)
Alberto Ríos, Theater of Night (Copper Canyon Press)

2006 Richard Blanco, Directions to the Beach of the Dead (University of Arizona Press)
Andrew Lam, Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora (Heyday)
Ed-Bok Lee, Real Karaoke People (New Rivers Press)
Caryl Phillips, Dancing in the Dark (Vintage)
Jennifer Tseng, The Man With My Face (The Asian American Writers’ Workshop)

2005 Faith Adiele, Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun (W. W. Norton & Company)
Raquel Cepeda, ed., And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years (Faber & Faber)
Lan Samantha Chang, Inheritance (W. W. Norton & Company)
Lolita Hernandez, Autopsy of an Engine, and Other Stories from the Cadillac Plant (Coffee House Press)
Ishle Yi Park, The Temperature of This Water (Kaya/Muae)

2004 Laila Halaby, West of the Jordan: A Novel (Beacon Press)
Suki Kim, The Interpreter (Picador)
Nasdijj, The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping (Ballantine Books)
Willie Perdomo, Smoking Lovely (Rattapallax Press)
April Reynolds, Knee-Deep in Wonder: A Novel (Metropolitan Books)

2002 Meena Alexander, Illiterate Heart (Triquarterly Books)
Luis Francia, Eye of the Fish (Kaya Press)
Joy Harjo, A Map to the Next World: Poetry and Tales (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Victor LaValle, Slapboxing with Jesus: Stories (Vintage Books)
Nelly Rosario, Song of the Water Saints (Pantheon Books)

Eligibility and Submission Guidelines

Learn More