NEW YORK—PEN America will confer world-renowned Mexican-American poet, essayist, and novelist Sandra Cisneros with the prestigious PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. Cisneros will be honored at the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony, hosted by stand-up comic, actor, filmmaker, and podcast host Hari Kondabolu, on February 26 at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York.

Throughout her career, Cisneros has illuminated everyday stories of the working class, most notably through her classic coming-of-age novel, The House on Mango Street, and her short story collection, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. She is regarded as one of the most significant modern-day contributors to Chicano literature, often exploring the theme of dual identity in Mexican and Anglo-American cultures. She will receive a $50,000 prize with the PEN/Nabokov Award.

Judges Alexander Chee, Edwidge Danticat, and Valeria Luiselli hailed Cisneros’s wide-ranging, powerful contributions to the literary canon: “Sandra Cisneros has said that she writes because ‘the world we live in is a house on fire and the people we love are burning.’ In a formidable and awe-inspiring body of work, which includes fiction, memoir, and poetry, Cisneros brings us astounding and lyrical voices from burning, maligned, devastated, as well as reassembled houses, and nations. It’s hard to imagine navigating our world today without her stories and her voice guiding us toward needed much reclamation and endurance.”

“Cisneros has not only changed the world of international literature, she has expanded American literature to include the Americas beyond the United States, inspiring a new era of Latinx writers we see emerging today, many of whom are shortlisted for our book awards,” said PEN America Literary Awards Program Director Nadxieli Nieto. “A focus on cross-cultural dialogue, translation, and international literature has long been at the heart of PEN America’s Literary Awards program, and it is especially fitting that a binational writer with such an impressive and lyrical body of work, is the PEN/Nabokov honoree this year. We are immensely honored to present this award to Sandra Cisneros.”

PEN America will also recognize extraordinary achievement in a substantial body of work in the fields of drama, sports writing, and editing.

Jackie “Mac” MacMullan, author of several titles including Basketball: A Love Story, When the Game Was Ours, and Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection, will receive the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000 prize) for the high literary quality of her sportswriting, her exemplary use of the oral history form, and her many years as a newspaper sportswriter and NBA columnist. She is the first female sportswriter to win the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. 

The PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award ($10,000 prize), which goes to an exceptional mid-career playwright, will be given to Larissa FastHorse for her exemplary and prolific output—17 plays in a little over a decade, including The Thanksgiving Play, What Would Crazy Horse Do?, and Urban Rez— exploring the making of modern families, bridging divergent communities, histories, languages, cultures. The judges—Craig Lucas, Jacob G. Padrón, and Condola Rashad— lauded her deft ability to “educate, tweak, embrace, outrage, and dance, sometimes all in a single scene.”

Alexandra Watson will receive the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing ($2,500 prize), for her high literary stewardship as the editor of Apogee, a journal of literature and art, foregrounding writers of color and engaging with issues of race, gender, and class, including Apogee‘s “Alternate Canon” series.

The PEN/Osterweil Award ($5,000 prize), which celebrates great promise in an early career poet, will be awarded to Jonah Mixon-Webster, poet-educator and conceptual/sound artist, for the high literary character of his debut collection, Stereo(TYPE), which explores the intersection of space and body, race and region, and sexuality and class; and wrestles with the ongoing crisis in Flint, MI.

Cisneros and all awardees will accept their prizes at the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, February 26 at the NYU Skirball Center in New York City. Featuring readings, performances, and edge-of-your-seat live announcements of the winners in 11 other categories, this annual fete of literary excellence has become one of the defining literary events of the year, where luminaries and tastemakers celebrate emerging writers and pay homage to established voices. This year, special guests will include:

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah 
José Olivarez 
Tara Westover 
Jamel Brinkley
Akil Kumarasamy
Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Jenny Xie
Jennifer Egan
Alexander Chee
Mark Eisner
Dunya Mikhail
Carol Anderson
Ezra Fitz
Ruben Quesada
David L. Ulin
Rachel Syme
Rafi Kohan
Kevin Nguyen
Alice Sola Kim
Mark Doten
Garrard Conley
… and many more

A full list of finalists for the 2018 PEN America Literary Awards is available at https://pen.org/2019finalists/. All book award winners will be announced live at the ceremony. Tickets to the ceremony are available to the public here.  

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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. pen.org

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager, agasparian@pen.org