(New York, NY) — PEN America today announced the 2022 PEN America Literary Awards finalists—a list of 54 authors and 11 translators recognized for exceptional works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, biography, essay, science writing, translation, and more published in 2021. After shifting to a virtual format in 2021, the 2022 Awards return to New York’s Town Hall (123 W 43rd St) February 28 for a vibrant in-person engagement, embracing 2020 host Seth Meyers’ description of the event as “the Oscars of books.” Music, performance, and vital words from renowned writers and other cultural luminaries, as well as new voices shaping literature’s future, commingle in a celebration of this year’s most resonant literature.

The PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, recognizing the originality, merit, and impact of a book-length work of any genre, and conferring $75,000 to its author, is the evening’s largest monetary prize. On the shortlist for the award this year are Percival Everett (The Trees: A Novel, Graywolf Press), Daisy Hernández (The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease, Tin House Books), Dantiel W. Moniz (Milk Blood Heat, Grove Press), Carolina De Robertis (The President and The Frog, Knopf), and Joy Williams (Harrow, Knopf). See below for finalist lists for all awards announced today. (The event’s host, as well as winners of career achievement awards, will be announced soon).

The books on the 11 PEN Literary Awards shortlists interrogate the legacies that have shaped this moment, whether the precarious facets of our society laid bare by the pandemic or structures of oppression whose groundwork is fortified by centuries; they also point to the values and hopes that might guide us forward. “Across the works and genres represented on, for example, the lists for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel, and the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, readers encounter bountiful eye-opening perspectives and enter complex visions and histories unfolding around the world and throughout time,” says Donica Bettanin, Program Director,  Literary Awards.

The original long-listed works (revealed in late 2021), today’s finalists, and the ultimate winners are all selected by judges comprising acclaimed and award-winning authors, editors, translators, and critics, convened in panels whose diversity, in various senses, is vividly reflected in the finalists they have chosen. Finalists hail from 25 states as well as China, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. The 10 titles for two translation prizes represent eight languages, capturing stories from 10 different countries. Two-thirds of finalists (authors and translators) are women and nonbinary writers, and half are writers of color. In part as a result of judges’ intimate knowledge of the field, and familiarity with voices who have yet to receive widespread exposure, almost half of finalists’ works are published by independent and university presses.

Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf, PEN America Senior Director of Literary Programs, said, “We consider, with intention, geography; genre; style; cultural, gender, racial, and sexual identity; and representation of writers at various points in their career trajectories, as central to how we convene judging panels. It’s then up to our judges to select and uplift the most vital work by their contemporaries — and we’re thrilled by the stunning writing and vast spectrum of visions they’ve brought into these selective lists.”

Founded in 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards ceremony has evolved from an auditorium event for winners and their families into a preeminent gathering of the city’s writing and publishing luminaries and passionate book lovers, who unite to celebrate diverse voices and to catapult new writers to prominence. The ceremony encompasses winner announcements, live music, dramatic readings from selected award-winning works, and a moving In Memoriam segment, which recognizes the literary greats lost over the last year. Across the event, $350,000 in awards will be granted to writers and translators. 

Book Awards Finalists List

PEN/Jean Stein Book Award ($75,000)

Judges: Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Angie Cruz, Maurice Manning, Steph Opitz  

  • The President and The Frog, Carolina De Robertis (Knopf)
  • The Trees: A Novel, Percival Everett (Graywolf Press)
  • The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease, Daisy Hernández (Tin House Books) 
  • Milk Blood Heat, Dantiel W. Moniz (Grove Press)
  • Harrow, Joy Williams (Knopf)

PEN Open Book Award ($10,000) 

Judges: Jaquira Díaz, Rigoberto González, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Khadijah Queen 

  • Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts, Rebecca Hall (Simon & Schuster) 
  • Antiman: A Hybrid Memoir, Rajiv Mohabir (Restless Books) 
  • Names for Light: A Family History, Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint (Graywolf Press)
  • Curb, Divya Victor (Nightboat Books)
  • White Magic, Elissa Washuta (Tin House Books)

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection ($25,000) 

Judges: Ling Ma, Manuel Muñoz, Oscar Villalon 

  • Skinship: Stories, Yoon Choi (Knopf) 
  • Eat the Mouth That Feeds You, Carribean Fragoza (City Lights Books)
  • Milk Blood Heat, Dantiel W. Moniz (Grove Press) 
  • Objects of Desire: Stories, Clare Sestanovich (Knopf) 
  • Give My Love to the Savages: Stories, Chris Stuck (Amistad Press)

PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel ($10,000)

Judges: Zeyn Joukhadar, Téa Obreht, Daniel Torday

  • Burnt Sugar, Avni Doshi (The Overlook Press) 
  • Dear Miss Metropolitan: A Novel, Carolyn Ferrell (Henry Holt & Company) 
  • The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Novel, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Harper)
  • Detransition, Baby: A Novel, Torrey Peters (One World)
  • The Five Wounds: A Novel, Kirstin Valdez Quade (W.W. Norton & Company)

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($15,000) 

Judges: Jason DeParle, Hua Hsu, Marilynne Robinson 

  • A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, Hanif Abdurraqib (Random House)
  • Homo Irrealis: Essays, André Aciman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 
  • Black Paper: Writing in a Dark Time, Teju Cole (University of Chicago Press) 
  • These Precious Days: Essays, Ann Patchett (Harper)
  • Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South, Margaret Renkl (Milkweed Editions)

PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection ($5,000)

Judges: Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Lia Purpura, Safiya Sinclair

  • Yellow Rain: Poems, Mai Der Vang (Graywolf Press) 
  • Sho, Douglas Kearney (Wave Books)
  • Heard-Hoard, Atsuro Riley (University of Chicago Press) 
  • frank: sonnets, Diane Seuss (Graywolf Press)
  • Mutiny, Phillip B. Williams (Penguin Books) 

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000)

Judges: Caro Carter, Michael Favala Goldman, Parisa Saranj

  • Exhausted on the Cross, Najwan Darwish (New York Review Books)
    Translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
  • Everything I Don’t Know, Jerzy Ficowski (World Poetry Books)
    Translated from the Polish by Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer
  • I Name Him Me: Selected Poems of Ma Yan, Ma Yan (Ugly Duckling Presse)
    Translated from the Chinese by Stephen Nashef
  • Outgoing Vessel, Ursula Andkjær Olsen (Action Books)
    Translated from the Danish by Katrine Øgaard Jensen 
  • Ova Completa, Susana Thénon (Ugly Duckling Presse)
    Translated from Spanish by Rebekah Smith 

PEN Translation Prize ($3,000)

Judges: Almiro Andrade, Mayada Ibrahim, Barbara Ofosu-Somuah, Sharon E. Rhodes

  • FEM, Magda Cârneci (Deep Vellum)
    Translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter
  • New Year, Juli Zeh (World Editions)
    Translated from the German by Alta L. Price 
  • Migratory Birds, Mariana Oliver (Transit Books)
    Translated from the Spanish by Julia Sanches
  • The Last One: A Novel, Fatima Daas (Other Press)
    Translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud 
  • Kaya Days: A Novel, Carl de Souza (Two Line Press)
    Translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman 

PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award  ($10,000) 

Judges: Jonathan Safran Foer, Michele Harper, Lauren Redniss

  • The Memory Thief: And the Secrets Behind What We Remember — A Medical Mystery, Lauren Aguirre (Pegasus Books)
  • The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (Bold Type Books) 
  • Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship, Catherine Raven (Spiegel & Grau) 
  • Believers: Making a Life at the End of the World, Lisa Wells (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 
  • Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive, Carl Zimmer (Dutton Books)

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography  ($5,000) 

Judges: Luke Dittrich, Paul Golob, Imani Perry 

  • The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness, Katie Booth (Simon & Schuster) 
  • All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler, Rebecca Donner (Little Brown and Company)
  • Albert and the Whale: Albrecht Dürer and How Art Imagines Our World , Philip Hoare (Pegasus Books)
  • The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky, Andrew D. Kaufman (Riverhead Books)
  • Orwell’s Roses, Rebecca Solnit (Viking)

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction ($10,000) 

Judges: Emma Copley Eisenberg, Dr. K. Tsianina Lomawaima, Chanel Miller, Dagmawi Woubshet

  • Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City, Andrea Elliott (Random House) 
  • All that She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family’s Keepsake, Tiya Miles (Random House)
  • Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration, Reuben Jonathan Miller (Little Brown and Company) 
  • Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993, Sarah Schulman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 
  • How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, Clint Smith (Little Brown and Company) 

About PEN America

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. Learn more at pen.org

Press Contacts

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