NEW YORK—PEN America released the longlists for its 2019 Literary Awards today, with 90 titles in the running for juried prizes honoring literary work including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation. Conferred by the country’s only organization that both celebrates literature and defends free expression, the PEN America Literary Awards honor literary excellence and celebrate voices that challenge, inform, and inspire. Prizes for debut fiction, international literature, science writing, sports writing, biography, essay writing and more will be awarded at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on February 26, 2019 at the NYU Skirball Center in New York City.

The majority of the semi-finalists this year are women, including in categories long dominated by men, such as biography, where seven out of the 10 books longlisted are by women and six are about women.  Longlisted works include: Zadie Smith’s Feel Free (Penguin Press); Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know; Jenny Xie’s Eye Level (Graywolf Press); Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black (Knopf); Jhumpa Lahiri for her translation of Domenico Starnone’s Trick (Europa Editions); Morgan Jerkins’ This Will Be My Undoing (Harper Perennial); Eliza Griswold’s Amity and Prosperity (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux); and many more.

In a period of time marked by nationalism and isolationism the PEN America Literary Awards continues its long-standing recognition of the finest writing in translation, with awards bestowed for both prose and poetry. This year, Sevinç Türkkan’s translation of Aslı Erdoğan’s The Stone Building and Other Places (City Lights) is longlisted at an especially poignant time, as Erdogan awaits trial in Turkey and PEN America advocates for her release.

“With a record number of submissions to our Awards, including from small, medium, and large presses, the competition for this year’s awards is more intense than ever,” said Nadxieli Nieto, PEN America Literary Awards Program Director. “The renewed interest in literature and translation in this political moment is a testament to the power of readers and writers to advocate for new ideas, challenge the old ones, and propose new futures. Coming during a year when so many women have broken their silence to tell long-suppressed stories, our judges’ choices reflect the the strength and breadth of women’s contributions across every category of literature.”

Finalists for the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards will be announced in January, and winners will be revealed at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on February 26 at the NYU Skirball Center in New York. Announcements about finalists and winners of the following awards are forthcoming: the PEN/Jean Stein Book of the Year Award, PEN/Nabokov Award for International Literature, PEN/Osterweil Award for Poetry, PEN/Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, PEN/Pels Theater Award, PEN/Magid Award for Excellence in Editing, and the PEN/ ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award. Ticket sales for the Ceremony go on sale today and are available to the public here.

For over 50 years, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across such diverse fields as translation, fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and drama. With the help of its partners and supporters, PEN America will confer 22 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes in 2019, awarding more than $370,000 to writers and translators.

The full 2019 PEN America Literary Award longlists and more information about the Literary Awards program are available here.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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