(New York, NY) — PEN America today announced the judges for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards.

Since 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored outstanding voices in the most dynamic awards program in the country, recognizing literary achievement across fiction, translation, poetry, science writing, essay, biography, children’s literature, drama, and more. With the help of 80+ judges, the 2021 Literary Awards will confer over $380,000 in prize money to writers and translators at all stages of their careers.

“To celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible, PEN America is dedicated to an inclusive community of readers and writers that fully represents our diverse world,” said Jane Marchant, PEN America Literary Awards Manager. “We think about and celebrate diversity in terms of age, location, gender identity, race and ethnicity, economic background, sexuality, disability, language, genre, and more, and we recognize that only by attempting to mirror the makeup of our world can we have a truly successful awards program.”

Included in this year’s judges cohort are:

  • Roxane Gay, Sandra Cisneros, Jhumpa Lahiri, Terrance Hayes, Tommy Orange, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Thomas Page McBee, Adam Gopnik, Alice Wong, Jeremy O. Harris, Toi Derricotte, Brandon Hobson, and Eric Schlosser, among others.
  • Among the judges: a translator for the Metropolitan Opera, MacArthur Genius Grant winners, PEN America Literary Awards winners and finalists, Whiting Award winners, National Book Award winners and finalists, and Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists.
  • More than 50 percent of the judges are writers of color and more than 50 percent women. PEN America’s  commitment over the past five years has been to prioritize goals of equal representation to strengthen its track record in diversity, among judges and Honorees. PEN America is dedicated to increasing representation of writers with disabilities, who are transgender, and are from Latinx, Native, and LGBTQIA+ communities. Our judges span generations and career stages and write from across the continental United States, as well as abroad.

These judges will showcase PEN America’s dedication to foster critical thinking and writing across varied and vital topics to all of humanity. The 2021 PEN America Literary Awards judges join a long tradition of esteemed writers dedicated to recognizing the literary excellence of their contemporaries.

Senior Director of Literary Programs Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf, Literary Awards Manager Jane Marchant, Translation Board Liaison Allison Markin Powell, Trustee Gregory Pardlo, and Literary Awards Committee Member Alex Marzano-Lesnevich are available for comment.

Additional judges available for comment include: Lily Hoang, Eric Schlosser, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Adam Gopnik, and Sandra Cisneros.

Complete List of 2021 PEN America Literary Awards Judges


PEN/Jean Stein Book Award: Fred Moten, Maggie Nelson, Tommy Orange, and Vievee Francis

PEN Open Book Award: Brandon Hobson, Jamil Jan Kochai, Katie Kitamura, Solmaz Sharif, Toi Derricotte, and Akil Kumarasamy

PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection: Bao Phi, Claudia Keelan, Cynthia Cruz, Sherwin Bitsui, and Terrance Hayes

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay: Adam Gopnik, John D’Agata, and Sandra Cisneros

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction: Dunya Mikhail, Eric Schlosser, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Laura Wides-Muñoz, Roxane Gay, and Thomas Page McBee

PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award: Banu Subramaniam, Christine Kenneally, Erin Macdonald, and Nassir Ghaemi

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography: Anna Whitelock, Karl Jacoby, Nell Irvin Painter, and Nicholas Buccola

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection: Ben Marcus, Elizabeth McCracken, and Ingrid Rojas Contreras

PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel: Jack Livings, Ramona Ausubel, and Stuart Nadler

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation: Daniel Borzutzky, Marissa Davis, and Meg Matich

PEN Translation Prize: Amanda Sarasien, Ana L. Méndez-Oliver, Jacqui Cornetta, Niloufar Talebi, Sevinç Türkkan, and Somrita Urni Ganguly


PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature: Elif Shafak, Lily Hoang, Jhumpa Lahiri, Justin Torres, Neel Mukherjee

PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award: Jeremy O. Harris, Leigh Silverman, Ruben Santiago-Hudson

PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing: Carmen Giménez Smith, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Patty Yumi Cottrell

PEN/Ralph Manheim Award for Translation: Larissa Kyzer, and Lyn Miller-Lachmann


PEN/Jean Stein Oral History Grants: Alex Kotlowitz, Alice Wong, and Chris Abani

PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers: Beth Piatote, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction: Heidi Durrow, Kathy Pories, and Sunil Yapa

PEN/Phyllis Naylor Grant for Children’s and Young Adult Literature: MT Anderson, Naomi Danis, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants: Aditi Machado, Elisabeth Jaquette, Jeffrey Zuckerman, Jeremy Tiang, Kareem James Abu-Zeid, Karen Emmerich, Lara Vergnaud, Nicholas Glastonbury, Peter Constantine, Sawako Nakayasu, Tess Lewis, and Wanda Phipps