The New York City-based PEN American Center recently announced the winners of the 2012 PEN Literary Awards. For over fifty years, PEN has given awards to the most promising and distinguished voices in the literary community. This year, eighteen grants, awards, and fellowships have been given to emerging and established writers from all over the country. The following are just a few of this year's winners.
Susan Nussbaum received the inaugural PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for her manuscript, Good Kings Bad Kings. Founded by author Barbara Kingsolver, the $25,000 prize is given biennially to an author for an unpublished novel that addresses issues of social justice. The prize also includes a publishing contract with Algonquin Books. Rosellen Brown, Margot Livesey, and Kathy Pories judged.
Vanessa Veselka won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for her novel, Zazen (Red Lemonade, 2011). The $25,000 award is given to a fiction writer whose debut work, published in the previous year, “represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.” Lauren Groff, Dinaw Mengestu, and Nami Mun judged.
Fiction writer E. L. Doctorow won the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. The $25,000 prize is given to a writer “whose body of work places him or her in the highest rank of American literature.” Don DeLillo, Jennifer Egan, and George Saunders judged.
James Gleick won the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award for The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (Pantheon Books, 2011). The $10,000 prize is given for a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of physical or biological sciences published in the previous year. Elizabeth Kolbert, Charles Mann, and Dava Sobel judged.
The late Christopher Hitchens received the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for his essay collection Arguably (Twelve, 2011). The $5,000 award is given for a book of essays published in the previous year that “exemplifies the dignity and esteem of the essay form.” Robert Boyers, Janet Malcolm, and Ruth Reichl judged.
Robert K. Massie won the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography for Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Random House, 2011). The $5,000 award is given for a biography published in the previous year. Blake Bailey, Daphne Merkin, and Honor Moore judged.
Fiction and nonfiction writer Siddhartha Deb won the PEN Open Book Award for his memoir, The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India (Faber & Faber, 2011). The $5,000 prize is given for a book by an author of color published in 2011. Alexander Chee, Mat Johnson, and Natasha Trethewey judged.
Poet Toi Derricotte won the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. The $5,000 prize is given to a poet whose “distinguished and growing body of work represents a notable presence in American literature.” Dan Chiasson, Aracelis Girmay, and A. Van Jordan judged.
Jen Hofer won the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for her translation of Negro Marfil/Ivory Black by Myriam Moscona (Les Figues Press, 2011). The $3,000 award is given for a book-length translation of poetry into English published in the previous year. Christian Hawkey judged.
Bill Johnston won the PEN Translation Prize for his translation of Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski (Archipelago Books, 2011). The $3,000 prize is given for a book-length translation of prose into English published in the previous year. Aron Aji, Donald Breckenridge, and Minna Proctor judged.
Margaret Sayers Peden received the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, which is given to a translator “whose career has demonstrated a commitment to excellence through the body of his or her work.”
The winners and finalists of this year's awards will be honored at the 2012 Literary Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, October 23 in New York City. PEN will begin accepting submissions for its 2013 Literary Awards on October 1. For a comprehensive list of this year’s winners and finalists, and for information and guidelines for the 2013 prizes, visit the PEN American Center website.