NEW YORK—PEN America today announced the shortlists for the 2016 PEN Literary Awards, including finalists for the coveted PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Writers Mia Alvar, Angela Flournoy, Julie Iromuanya, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Jennifer Tseng will compete for the $25,000 prize, to be announced live at an April 11 Ceremony at the New School Auditorium in New York.

“This year’s shortlist demonstrates a vast trove of literary talent, including venerable greats who continue to reach new creative heights as well as brand new voices,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America. “As the nation’s most comprehensive awards program, the prizes PEN confers play a unique role in highlighting undiscovered authors and works, probing important genres, and reflecting great cultural breadth.”

Also among the finalists for PEN’s eight book prizes announced today are Ta-Nehisi Coates for his work exploring race and fatherhood, Marilynne Robinson for her critique of contemporary technology and faith, and Reginald Dwayne Betts for his newest collection of poetry. The complete list of shortlisted titles is available at

“The process of deliberating among the hundreds of exceptional works to select these finalists is both a taxing challenge and a joyous discovery,” said Monique Truong, chair of PEN’s Literary Awards Committee. “We are grateful to our dedicated judging panel, whose passion and consideration is all the more meaningful as they are truly recognizing their peers.”

PEN announced the shortlists for its annual awards earlier than ever this year, celebrating a total of forty books from the 2015 publishing year. Winners will be announced on March 1, with the exception of those for Debut Fiction, Art of the Essay, and Literary Science Writing, as well as the PEN Open Book Award and the PEN/Fusion Prize, which will be named live at the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on April 11.

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/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


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


After the Tall Timber: Collected Non-Fiction (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


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/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


Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster), Kent Babb
The Domino Diaries: My Decade Boxing with Olympic Champions and Chasing Hemingway’s Ghost in the Last Days of Castro’s Cuba (Picador), Brin-Jonathan Butler
The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph (Little Brown and Company), Scott Ellsworth
Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty (Simon & Schuster), Bengie Molina with Joan Ryan
The Grind: Inside Baseball’s Endless Season (Blue Rider Press), Barry Svrluga

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


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

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


The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects (W. W. Norton & Company), Deborah Lutz
Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art (Thames & Hudson), Nancy Princenthal
John le Carré: The Biography (Harper Books), Adam Sisman
Michelle Obama: A Life (Alfred A. Knopf), Peter Slevin
Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (Harper Books), Rosemary Sullivan

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

JUDGE: Urayoán Noel


The School of Solitude: Collected Poems by Luis Hernández (Swan Isle Press), translated from the Spanish by Anthony Geist
The Late Poems of Wang An-shih (New Directions), translated from the Chinese by David Hinton
Rilke Shake by Angélica Freitas (Phoneme Media) translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan
I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (Cleveland State University Poetry Center), translated from the Russian by Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev
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


The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector (New Directions), translated from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson
The Blizzard by Vladimir Sorokin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Penguin Classics), translated from the Russian by Oliver Ready
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov (Open Letter Books), translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel
Hollow Heart by Viola Di Grado (Europa Editions), translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The 2016 PEN Literary Awards are made possible through the generous support of PEN’s many donors:, 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 For general questions about any of the awards, write to 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


Founded in 1922, PEN America is an association of 4,300 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.

Paul W. Morris, Director of Literary Programs: 646-779-4824,

Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: 646-779-4830,