PEN America Announces Finalists for 2019 Literary Awards

This morning PEN America announced the finalists for its 2019 Literary Awards, which showcase the best books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and translation published in the previous year. More than $370,000 in prize money will be awarded to the winning writers, who will be announced at a ceremony in New York City on February 26. This year more than 50 percent of the finalists are debut writers and authors published by small presses.

The $75,000 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award recognizes a book-length work in any genre. The 2019 finalists are Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah for Friday Black (Mariner Books), Ada Limón for The Carrying (Milkweed Editions), José Olivarez for Citizen Illegal (Haymarket Books), Richard Powers for The Overstory (Norton), and Tara Westover for Educated (Random House).

The finalists for the PEN/Hemingway Award, which includes $25,000 and a residency at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, are Akwaeke Emezi for Freshwater (Grove Press), Meghan Kenny for The Driest Season (Norton), Ling Ma for Severance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Tommy Orange for There There (Knopf), and Nico Walker for Cherry (Knopf).

The PEN/Bingham Prize, which was previously awarded for a first book of fiction, will now be awarded for a debut story collection. The finalists for the $25,000 award are Chaya Bhuvaneswar for White Dancing Elephants (Dzanc Books), Jamel Brinkley for A Lucky Man (Graywolf Press), Helen DeWitt for Some Trick (New Directions), Akil Kumarasamy for Half Gods (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and Will Mackin for Bring Out the Dog (Random House).

The PEN Open Book Award, worth $5,000, will be conferred to an author of color for a book-length work of any genre. The finalists are Shauna Barbosa for Cape Verdean Blues (University of Pittsburgh Press), Tyrese Coleman for How to Sit: A Memoir in Stories and Essays (Mason Jar Press), Ángel García for Teeth Never Sleep (University of Arkansas Press), Nafissa Thompson-Spires for Heads of the Colored People (Atria), and Jenny Xie for Eye Level (Graywolf Press).

The PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay is given to a collection of essays that exemplify the form. The finalists for the $10,000 award are Jabari Asim for We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival (Picador), Alexander Chee for How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Brian Phillips for Impossible Owls (FSG Originals), Zadie Smith for Feel Free (Penguin Press), and Michelle Tea for Against Memoir (Feminist Press).

Visit the website for a complete list of finalists, including those for PEN awards in nonfiction, biography, translation, poetry in translation, and literary science writing.

Established in 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored hundreds of writers. Layli Long Soldier, Jenny Zhang, and Alexis Okeowo were among the 2018 winners.