Literary Awards:
Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: +1.646.779.4830,

NEW YORK—PEN America announced the finalists today for its 2017 Literary Awards, including Teju Cole, who becomes the first writer in the award program’s 54-year history to be named a finalist in two categories for his collection of essays Known and Strange Things (Random House).

Like many other literary awards programs, PEN America allows publishers to submit a book to only one category. But the introduction this year of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, a new prize in 2017 for a book of extraordinary originality and lasting influence judged by an anonymous panel without submissions, for the first time has opened the opportunity for Cole’s book—also a finalist in the category for essay—to be considered for more than one honor. Other finalists for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award include Tyehimba Jess, Hisham Matar, Jane Mayer, and Colson Whitehead. The winner will receive $75,000, the largest prize ever conferred by PEN America.

The 2017 PEN America Literary Awards will be the biggest yet, conferring 19 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes totaling nearly $315,000 across a broad range of categories including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, translation, and more. Other finalists announced Wednesday include Siri Hustvedt for her collection of essays, Helen Oyeyemi for her collection of short stories, Yaa Gyasi for her breakout debut novel Homegoing, and Eva Saulitis for her posthumous collection of essays.

“The PEN America Literary Awards recognize writing that interprets the world for us,” said PEN America President Andrew Solomon. “Rarely has this aim felt more urgent than it does in this political and politicized moment. In honoring the finalists today, we are reaffirming the power of literature to sustain truth in a post-truth world, to uphold moral discourse, and to articulate humanist values that transcend exploitative, anti-intellectual populism.”

A list of all finalists can be found below and on PEN America’s website.

The winners for all 2017 awards will be announced on February 22, with a few notable exceptions. Winners of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature will be announced live on March 27 at the 2017 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony, which will be held for the first time at The New School’s John L. Tishman Auditorium in Manhattan.

Since 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across a diverse array of genres and styles, celebrating both renowned and emerging authors and translators and helping to advance the careers of beloved writers including Jonathan Safran Foer and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


PEN/Jean Stein Book Award ($75,000): To recognize a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact.

JUDGES: The judges for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award will serve anonymously and will be announced at a later date.

Known and Strange Things (Random House), Teju Cole   
Olio (Wave Books), Tyehimba Jess
The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between (Random House), Hisham Matar
Dark Money (Doubleday/Penguin Random House), Jane Mayer
The Underground Railroad (Doubleday/Penguin Random House), Colson Whitehead

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 2016—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise of a second work of literary fiction.

JUDGES: Jami Attenberg, Tanwi Nandini Islam, Randall Kenan, Hanna Pylväinen, and Akhil Sharma

Insurrections (University Press of Kentucky), Rion Amilcar Scott
We Show What We Have Learned (Lookout Books/UNC Wilmington), Clare Beams
The Mothers (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House), Brit Bennett
Homegoing (Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House), Yaa Gyasi
Hurt People (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), Cote Smith

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): For a book of essays published in 2016 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.

JUDGES: Eula Biss, Kiese Laymon, and Paul Steiger

The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood (Graywolf Press), Belle Boggs
Known and Strange Things (Random House), Teju Cole
A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and The Mind (Simon & Schuster), Siri
The Girls in My Town (University of New Mexico Press), Angela Morales
Becoming Earth (Red Hen Press), Eva Saulitis

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction ($10,000):  To an author of a distinguished book of general nonfiction published in 2015 or 2016, possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues.

JUDGES: Julia Angwin, Rich Benjamin, Jeff Biggers, Charles Duhigg, Marie Mutsuki Mockett, Lizzie Stark, and Jessica Valenti

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown/Penguin Random House), Matthew Desmond
The Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America (W.W. Norton & Company), Patrick Phillips
Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (Bloomsbury Press), Sam Quinones
Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House), Laura Secor
Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship (Doubleday/Penguin Random House), Anjan Sundaram

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 2016.

JUDGES: Emily Anthes, Robin Marantz Henig, Emma Marris, and Amy Ellis Nutt

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets (Random House), Luke Dittrich
Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History (Basic Books/Perseus Book Group), Dan Flores
How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of a Private Spaceflight (Penguin Press/ Penguin Random House), Julian Guthrie
Lab Girl (Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House), Hope Jahren
The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish (Scribner/Simon & Schuster), Emily Voigt

PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To honor a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2016.

JUDGES: Jay Caspian Kang, Juliet Macur, and David Owen

The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers (HarperCollins), Michael Leahy
Catching the Sky (37 Ink/Simon & Schuster), Colten Moore with Keith O’Brien
Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA (Portfolio/Penguin Random House), Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss
Playing Through the Whistle: Steel, Football, and an American Town (Atlantic Monthly Press/Grove Atlantic), S.L. Price
Fastpitch: The Untold History of the Softball and the Women Who Made the Game (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster), Erica Westly

PEN Open Book Award ($5,000): For an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color published in 2016.

JUDGES: Ishmael Beah, Major Jackson, and Bich Minh Nguyen

The Book of Memory (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), Petina Gappah
The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books/University of Maine at Farmington), Jamaal May
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House), Helen Oyeyemi
Look (Graywolf Press), Solmaz Sharif
Blackacre (Graywolf Press), Monica Youn

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000): For a distinguished biography published in 2016.

JUDGES: Yunte Huang, Joyce Johnson, and Evelyn C. White

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright/W.W. Norton & Company), Ruth Franklin
Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), Joe Jackson
A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley (W.W. Norton & Company), Jane Kamensky
Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer (HarperCollins), Arthur Lubow
Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White (HarperCollins), Michael Tisserand

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000): For a book-length translation of poetry into English published in 2016.

JUDGES: Jennifer Grotz, Kyoo Lee, and Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Pearl: A New Verse Translation (Liveright/W.W. Norton & Company) translated from the Middle English by Simon Armitage
Abyss by Ya Hsien (Zephyr Press) translated from the Chinese by John Balcom
Preludes and Fugues by Emmanuel Moses (Oberlin College Press) translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker
In Praise of Defeat: Poems by Abdellatif Laâbi (Archipelago Books) translated from the French by Donald Nicholson Smith
Absolute Solitude: Selected Poems by Dulce Maria Loynaz (Archipelago Books) translated from the Spanish by James O’Connor

PEN Translation Prize ($3,000): For a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2016.

JUDGES: Mara Faye Lethem, Elizabeth Lowe, Jeremy Tiang, Annie Tucker, and Dennis Washburn

Confessions by Rabee Jaber (New Directions) translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
Between Life and Death by Yoram Kaniuk (Restless Books) translated from the Hebrew by Barbara Harshav
Angel of Oblivion by Maja Haderlap (Archipelago Books) translated from the German by Tess Lewis
Justine by Iben Mondrup (Open Letter Books) translated from the Danish by Kerri A. Pierce
The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Hogarth/Crown Publishing) translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith


(The following awards do not have finalists.)

PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature ($50,000): To a writer of any genre and any nationality for their body of work.

JUDGES: Aravind Adiga, Ayad Akhtar, Robin Coste Lewis, Jessica Hagedorn, and Thrity Umrigar

PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History ($10,000): For an unpublished literary work of nonfiction that uses oral history to illuminate an event, individual, place or movement.

JUDGES: Gaiutra Badhadur, Helen Epstein, and Dan Kennedy

PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers ($2,000 to 12 Writers): Recognizing twelve emerging fiction writers for their debut story published in 2016.

JUDGES: Marie-Helene Bertino, Kelly Link, and Nina McConigley

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: Oskar Eustis, Michael C. Hall, and Young Jean Lee

PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry ($5,000): For a new and emerging American poet with the promise of further literary achievement.

JUDGES: Camille Dungy, Ada Limón, and Patrick Phillips

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: Margarita Engle, Sharyn November, and Polly Shulman

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: Pete Hamill, Sally Jenkins, and Michael Sokolove

PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing : ($2,500) To a magazine editor whose high literary standards and taste have, throughout his or her career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication he or she edits.

JUDGES: Michael Dumanis, David L. Ulin, and Caitlin McKenna

PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000): To support the translation of book-length works into English. PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature ($5,000): To a translator for a work-in-progress of a book-length translation of an Italian work of literary fiction or nonfiction into English.

JUDGES: Tynan Kogane, Edna McCown, Fiona McCrae, Canaan Morse, Idra Novey, Allison Markin Powell, Antonio Romani, Chip Rossetti, Shabnam Nadiya, and Ross Ufberg


The 2017 PEN America Literary Awards are made possible through the generous support of PEN’s many donors: the family of Robert W. Bingham, Fernanda Dau Fisher and the family of Robert J. Dau, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Carl Spielvogel, ESPN, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jean Stein, The Kaplen Foundation, Priscilla and Michael Henry Heim, 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, Jacqueline Bograd Weld and Rodman L. Drake, the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation, and Gerald Weales.

PEN America will begin accepting submissions for its 2018 Awards in the spring of 2017. For a list of all 2018 PEN America Literary Awards and information about submission guidelines, please visit For questions about any of the awards, write to For questions about the longlisted titles, upcoming awards announcements, or advertising in the 2017 Ceremony program, please contact Literary Awards:


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free 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.