NEW YORK—Emcee and author James Hannaham presented the PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize to Adriana E. Ramírez of Pittsburgh for her manuscript Dead Boys at the annual PEN Literary Awards Ceremony tonight in New York.

Dead Boys takes an unflinching look at the bodies of those who have died too young: nine people hanged by a drug cartel on the U.S.-Mexico Border, the washed-up casualties of Colombian strife, a young boy unable to outrun a loan shark, and even a tragic death in the author’s own family. Through these personal stories, the 11,200-word manuscript examines how complex geopolitics can manifest in the individual stories of people from the three countries Ramírez calls her own: Mexico, Colombia, and the United States.

“In this striking manuscript, Ramírez explores borders, violence, drug trafficking, the crimes that rise from the drug trade, and, most of all, dead boys and how they are slain, how they are mourned,” write judges John Freeman, Roxane Gay, and Cristina Henríquez in their citation for the award. “Throughout, the ghost of her brother lingers, reminding us of the fragility of everything.”

Underwritten by Fusion television network, the PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize is an annual award conferred for the first time in 2015 to recognize a promising writer under age 35 for an unpublished work of nonfiction that addresses a global or multicultural issue. The award carries a $10,000 purse to assist the winning writer in continuing his or her literary endeavors and finding a publisher for the work.

Runners-up for the prize include Melissa Petro for Unbecoming; Liz Quinn forThe Forgotten Midwives of Guatemala; and Krystal Sital for Incantations.

The PEN/Fusion Award is the first of four PEN Literary Awards to be announced live at the Ceremony in New York tonight. The PEN Open Book Award, PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and highly anticipated PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction will be announced as the evening wears on.

For over 50 years, the PEN Literary Awards have honored—and introduced—some of the most outstanding voices in literature across such diverse genres as fiction, poetry, biography, children’s literature, science writing, translation, and drama. With the help of its partners, supporters, and judges, PEN conferred 19 distinct awards in 2015 totaling nearly $150,000. Other winners in 2015 include poet and BuzzFeed editor Saeed Jones for Prelude to Bruise and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sheri Fink for Five Days at Memorial. A complete list of 2015 winners is available at


Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,000 U.S writers working to break down barriers to free expression worldwide. Its distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and the advancement of human rights of such past members as Langston Hughes, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck.


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