PEN Announces 2019 Literary Award Winners

At a ceremony last night in New York City, PEN America announced the winners of its 2019 Literary Awards. This year the organization awarded more than $370,000 to writers and translators for books and literary works published in 2018. 

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah took home the biggest prize of the night, the $75,000 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, for his debut story collection, Friday Black (Mariner Books). The annual award is given for a book of any genre for its “originality, merit, and impact.”

The $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection went to Will Mackin for Bring Out the Dog (Random House), and Michelle Tea won the $10,000 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions, & Criticisims (Feminist Press). Nafissa Thompson-Spires received the $5,000 PEN Open Book Award for her novel, Heads of the Colored People (Atria). The annual award is given for a book of any genre by a writer of color. 

PEN America also honored poet, essayist, and novelist Sandra Cisneros with its Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. Cisneros, the author of several books, including the acclaimed novel The House on Mango Street, will receive $50,000. The organization also awarded its inaugural $25,000 PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award to Kenneth Lonergan; the annual award honors the year’s best writing for performance.

PEN America started its award program in 1963 to “celebrate literary excellence, encourage global discourse, champion important voices, and bring new books to life.” Visit the PEN website for a complete list of winners, finalists, and judges.

Photo: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah