PEN America Literary Awards Open Book Award

The PEN Open Book Award, formerly the Beyond Margins Awards, invites book submissions by authors of color, published in the United States during the applicable calendar year. The Open Book Award was created by PEN America’s Open Book Committee, a group committed to racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities. Works of fiction, literary nonfiction, biography/memoir, poetry, and other works of literary character are strongly preferred.

Beginning in the 2021 award cycle, the award will confer a $10,000 prize upon an author of color who has, prior to the submitted book’s publication, not received wide media attention. The winner additionally receives a fully-funded artist residency at Civitella Ranieri, located in a 15th century castle in rural Umbria, Italy. 

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 2022 cycle will be open June 1–August 1, 2021.

Featured Winner

Judges: Toi Derricotte, Brandon Hobson, Katie Kitamura, Jamil Jan Kochai, Akil Kumarasamy, Solmaz Sharif

Inheritors, Asako Serizawa (Doubleday)
Bookshop

From the judges’ citation: “The variety of narratives in the Inheritors by Asako Serizawa is nothing short of remarkable. Whether Serizawa is constructing an incredibly tense scene between a Japanese veteran of the Pacific War and the mother of his missing comrade, or gently unraveling the forgotten memories of a dying immigrant, the precision and care with which she writes her sentences and builds her worlds never falters. In these stories are men and women haunted by the ghosts of the disappeared, the fires of war, and their own complicity in acts of world-shattering violence. Formally experimental and philosophically complex, Serizawa’s collection explores the nature of political and historical violence, immigration, Japanese and American nationalisms, assimilation, memories, death, loss, suffering, and, of course, inheritance itself, in all its terrible forms.”

Inheritors book cover

2021 Finalists

A Treatise on Stars, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge (New Directions Publishing)
Bookshop

Un-American, Hafizah Geter (Wesleyan University Press)
Bookshop

Wild Peach, S*an D. Henry-Smith (Futurepoem Books)
Small Press Distributions

Inheritors, Asako Serizawa (Doubleday)
Bookshop

How to Pronounce Knife: Stories, Souvankham Thammavongsa (Little, Brown and Company)
Bookshop

Book covers of 2021 PEN Open Book Award finalists

History

Previous Winners

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

2020 Brandon Shimoda, The Grave on the Wall (City Lights Books)

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

  • A candidate’s work must have been published in the United States by a trade publisher between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.
  • Eligible books must be written by a single, living author in English.
  • The PEN Open Book Award is open to authors of color who have not, prior to the submitted book’s publication, received wide media coverage. If you have a question regarding the author’s media coverage, please email [email protected].
  • Works of fiction, literary nonfiction, biography/memoir, poetry, and other works of literary character are strongly preferred.
  • U.S. residency or citizenship is not required.
  • Self-published books are not eligible.

Submission Guidelines

SUBMIT HERE

  • 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 submissions 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.

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