Ellsworth, Nottage, and Princenthal Among Recipients for 2016 PEN Literary Awards

NEW YORK—PEN America today announced the winners for the 2016 PEN Literary Awards. Toni Morrison, whose prolific literary career spans more than four decades, was selected for the prestigious PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction by a panel of judges including previous recipient Louise Erdrich.

“Toni Morrison not only opened doors to others when she began to publish, she has also stayed grounded in the issues of her time,” said Erdrich on behalf of the judging panel comprised also of Francine Prose and Dinaw Mengetsu. “At every turn, she has commented upon and enlarged the conversation about what it is to be black, female, human, universal. Her brilliant and bracing fiction continues to address what is crucial, timely and timeless.”

Other 2016 PEN Literary Award recipients include Scott Ellsworth, who will receive the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing for his account of a historic 1944 basketball game that presaged the burgeoning Civil Rights movement; Nancy Princenthal, winner of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for her distinguished biography Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art; Lynn Nottage, who, after receiving the 2004 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for an American Playwright in Mid-Career, will be elevated in 2016 to Master Dramatist; and Ed Roberson for his 45 years of contribution to American poetry.

The complete list of winners is available at www.pen.org/2016-pen-literary-award-winners

All recipients will be honored at the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony to be held on April 11 at The New School in New York City. The winners of five awards not announced today—the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, the PEN Open Book Award, and the PEN/FUSION Prize—will be revealed live at the event.

“The celebration of these award winners throws into sharp relief the significance of free expression, a human right upon which great literature is predicated,” said Andrew Solomon, President of PEN America. “I can think of no better way to champion the universal power of the written word than this annual celebration of writers and translators who are masters of their craft.”

For more than 50 years, the PEN Literary Awards have honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across such diverse fields as fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, translation, and drama. With the help of its partners and supporters, PEN will confer 19 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes in 2016, awarding nearly $200,000 to writers and translators.


PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction ($25,000): To a distinguished living American author of fiction.

JUDGES: Louise Erdrich, Dinaw Mengestu, and Francine Prose

WINNER: Toni Morrison

PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, founded by Barbara Kingsolver ($25,000): To an author of an unpublished novel that addresses issues of social justice. The prize also includes a publishing contract with Algonquin Books.

JUDGES: Laila Lalami, Kathy Pories, and Brando Skyhorse

WINNER: “The Leavers” (Forthcoming from Algonquin Books), Lisa Ko

PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Awards ($7,500 and $2,500): Three awards which honor a Master American Dramatist, American Playwright in Mid-Career, and Emerging American Playwright.

JUDGES: Annie Baker, Kirsten Greenidge, and Tracy Letts

Master American Dramatist (To receive a specially commissioned art object)
WINNER: Lynn Nottage

American Playwright in Mid-Career ($7,500)
WINNER: Young Jean Lee

Emerging American Playwright ($2,500)
WINNER: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000): For a distinguished biography published in 2015.

JUDGES: Nell Irvin Painter, Deborah Solomon, and Simon Winchester

WINNER: Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art (Thames & Hudson), Nancy Princenthal

PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To honor a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2015.

JUDGES: David Epstein, Ann Killion, and Dave Zirin

WINNER: The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph (Little Brown and Company), Scott Ellsworth

PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To a writer for a lifetime of writing about sports and its dimensions of character and action.”

JUDGES: Senator William W. Bradley, Sally Jenkins, and Dave Kindred

WINNER: John Schulian

PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship ($5,000): For an author of children’s or young-adult fiction to complete a book-length work-in-progress.

JUDGES: Emily Arnold McCully, Katherine Paterson, and Jason Reynolds

WINNER: “A Chemical Distance” (available for publication), Ash Parsons

PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry ($5,000): To a poet whose distinguished and growing body of work to date represents a notable and accomplished presence in American literature.

JUDGES: Catherine Barnett, Jericho Brown, and Tina Chang

WINNER: Ed Roberson

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000): For a book-length translation of poetry into English published in 2015.

JUDGE: Urayoán Noel

WINNER: The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa (Canarium Books), translated from the Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu

PEN Translation Prize ($3,000): For a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2015.

JUDGES: Elisabeth Jaquette, Aviya Kushner, Ronald Meyer, Sara Nović, and Jeffrey Zuckerman

WINNER: The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector (New Directions), translated from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson

PEN/Edward and Lily Tuck Award for Paraguayan Literature ($3,000): To a living author of a major work of Paraguayan literature not yet translated into English.

JUDGES: Ezra E. Fitz, Amalia Gladhart, and Mark Weiss

WINNER: Doce Lunas Llenas: Poesias sobre la Divina Energia Femenina, Nathalia María Echauri Castagnino

Recipients of the below awards will be announced at a later date:

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000): To an author whose debut work–a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2015–represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise of a second work of literary fiction.

JUDGES: Helon Habila, Elizabeth McCracken, Edie Meidav, and Jess Row

The winner will be announced at the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on April 11


In the Country: Stories (Alfred A. Knopf), Mia Alvar
The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Angela Flournoy
Mr. and Mrs. Doctor (Coffee House Press), Julie Iromuanya
The Sympathizer: A Novel (Grove Press), Viet Thanh Nguyen
Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness (Europa Editions), Jennifer Tseng

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): For a book of essays published in 2015 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.

JUDGES: Verlyn Klinkenborg, Meghan O’Rourke, and Luc Sante

The winner will be announced at the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on April 11


After the Tall Timber: Collected Nonfiction (New York Review Books), Renata Adler
Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Random House), Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Quarry (New Directions), Susan Howe
The Givenness of Things: Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Marilynne Robinson
Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles (University of California Press), David L. Ulin

PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000): For a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of the physical or biological sciences published in 2015.

JUDGES: Joshua Foer, Virginia Hughes, and Sonia Shah

The winner will be announced at the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on April 11


Rain: A Natural and Cultural History (Crown), Cynthia Barnett
The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World (W. W. Norton & Company), Joel K. Bourne Jr.
The Boy Who Played with Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Tom Clynes
Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future (Random House), Lauren Redniss
Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World (Pegasus Books), Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe

PEN Open Book Award ($5,000): For an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color published in 2015.

JUDGES: Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Celeste Ng, and Héctor Tobar

The winner will be announced at the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on April 11


Chord (Sarabande Books), Rick Barot
Bastards of the Reagan Era (Four Way Books), Reginald Dwayne Betts
Forest Primeval: Poems (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern), Vievee Francis
Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey (W. W. Norton & Company), Marie Mutsuki Mockett
Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape (Counterpoint), Lauret Savoy

PEN/FUSION Emerging Writers Prize ($10,000): For a promising young writer under the age of 35 for an unpublished work of nonfiction that addresses a global and/or multicultural issue.

JUDGES: Marie Arana, Manuel Gonzales, and Johnny Temple

The winner will be announced at the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on April 11

PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000): To support the translation of book-length works into English

JUDGES: The PEN/Heim Translation Fund Advisory Board

Winners will be announced later this spring


The 2016 PEN Literary Awards are made possible through the generous support of PEN’s many donors: Amazon Literary Partnership, the family of Robert W. Bingham, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Carl Spielvogel, ESPN, Harrison Ford, The Kaplen Foundation, Barbara Kingsolver, Priscilla and Michael Henry Heim, Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman, Phyllis Naylor, the Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater, the Estate of Rochelle Ratner, Dr. Edward O. Wilson and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, James and Cathy Stone, Edward and Lily Tuck, Hunce Voelcker, Jacqueline Bograd Weld and Rodman L. Drake, and Univision.

PEN will begin accepting submissions for its 2017 Awards in the spring of 2016. For a list of all 2017 PEN Awards and information about submission guidelines, please visit www.pen.org/awards. For general questions about any of the awards, write to awards@pen.org. For questions about the shortlisted titles, upcoming awards announcements, or advertising in the 2016 Ceremony program, please contact Paul W. Morris, PEN’s Director of Literary Programs, at paul@pen.org.


Founded in 1922, PEN America is an association of 4,400 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. www.pen.org

Paul W. Morris, Director of Literary Programs: +1 646-779-4824, paul@pen.org
Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications +1 646-779-4830, sedkins@pen.org