New annual award of $10,000 honors an american or U.S. Based writer who has published at least three distinguished works of fiction

New York City, October 8, 2010—PEN American Center, the nation’s preeminent association of writers, editors, and translators, has announced Susan Choi as the recipient of the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award, a new annual award recognizing a fiction writer in mid-career. The PEN/W.G. Sebald Award of $10,000 has been established by an anonymous donor to promote powerful and courageous writing that honors the legacy of W.G. Sebald. The judges for this year’s award were Russell Banks, Rivka Galchen, and Jayne Anne Phillips.

The PEN/W.G. Sebald Award recognizes a novelist in the prime of his or her career. “From The Foreign Student to American Woman to A Person of Interest,” the judges’ citation reads, “Choi defamiliarizes figures and places in American culture that we think we know so well—Patty Hearst, the Unabomber—and thus returns them to us nuanced, newly relevant, and liberated from their canned narratives… Her prose is simultaneously lapidary and light, and accumulates to a magnificence.”

Choi was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for American Woman, her second novel, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award last year for A Person of Interest. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. In addition to her novels, she has published nonfiction in Vogue, Tin House, Allure, O, and The New York Times. She holds a B.A. in literature from Yale and an M.F.A. from Cornell, and worked for several years as a fact-checker at The New Yorker.

The PEN/W.G. Sebald Award for a Fiction Writer in Mid-Career is a particularly welcome and exciting addition to the PEN Literary Awards. Until this year, PEN has given major awards to a promising new writer of fiction and to a master of the form. The PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers recognizes the debut book by an exceptionally talented writer of fiction; this year’s winner is Paul Harding, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers. The PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction goes to a living author whose body of work places him or her in the highest rank of American literature; Don DeLillo is this year’s recipient.

Ms. Choi will accept her award at the PEN Literary Awards ceremony on Wednesday, October 13, at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. Mr. DeLillo and Mr. Harding will also be on hand to receive their awards. The ceremony will begin at 6:30 and will be followed by a reception. It is open to members of the press by RSVP to [email protected]

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit

David Haglund, 212-334-1660, ext. 115
Stefanie Simons, 212-334-1660, ext. 122