PEN America Announces 2020 Longlists in Its $330,000 Literary Awards

In News by Porter Anderson

Both the translation and poetry-in-translation prizes are included in the set of eight longlists released by PEN America for its 2020 literary awards program.

Booksellers wrap books for holiday shoppers in Strasbourg’s Place Kléber in the city center. Image – iStockphoto: Adrian Hancu

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Our story on Rollan Seisenbayev and ‘The Dead Wander in the Desert’–longlisted for a 2020 PEN America Translation Prize–is here.

Combined Awards Will Pay US$330,000
The longlisted titles for the 2020 PEN America suite of annual awards were published in 2019 and include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, biography, essay, science writing, and translation.

Shortlisted finalists in the program are to be named in January–including the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and career achievement prizes.

The organization’s awards ceremony is set for March 2 at New York City’s Town Hall.

PEN America Awards 2020 Longlists

The current announcement from PEN incorporates longlists for eight awards.

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for a Debut Short Story Collection (US$25,000)

This award is given to an author whose debut collection of short stories published in 2019 represents “distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.” The jurors in this category are Aimee Bender, Jamel Brinkley, Samantha Hunt, Randa Jarrar, and Elissa Schappell.

  • Spider Love Song and Other Stories, Nancy Au (Acre Books)
  • Avery Colt is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar, Ron A. Austin  (Southeast Missouri State University Press)
  • The Trojan War Museum, Ayşe Papatya Bucak (W. W. Norton & Company)
  • Sabrina & Corina, Kali Fajardo-Anstine (One World)
  • Last of Her Name, Mimi Lok (Kaya Press)
  • Not Dead Yet and Other Stories, Hadley Moore (Autumn House Press)
  • The Beadworkers, Beth Piatote (Counterpoint Press)
  • The Rapture Index: A Suburban Bestiary, Molly Reid (BOA Editions)
  • Home Remedies, Xuan Juliana Wang (Hogarth)
  • Lot, Bryan Washington (Riverhead Books)

PEN/Hemingway Award for a Debut Novel (US25,000)

This prize is for a debut novel published in 2019 and deemed “of exceptional merit” by jurors R.O. Kwon, Terese Marie Mailhot, and David L. Ulin.

  • The Gone Dead, Chanelle Benz (Ecco)
  • Stay and Fight, Madeline ffitch (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Reinhardt’s Garden, Mark Haber (Coffee House Press)
  • 99 Nights in Logar, Jamil Jan Kochai (Viking)
  • Big Familia, Tomas Moniz (Acre Books)
  • The Travelers, Regina Porter (Hogarth)
  • The Affairs of the Falcóns, Melissa Rivero (Ecco)
  • A Prayer for Travelers, Ruchika Tomar (Riverhead Books)
  • The Far Field, Madhuri Vijay (Grove Press)
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)

PEN Open Book Award (US$5,000)

This award is for a book-length work of any genre by an author of color, published in the United States in 2019. This award was juried by Ali Eteraz, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Dawn Lundy Martin, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, Camille Rankine, and Héctor Tobar.

  • The 44th of July, Jaswinder Bolina (Omnidawn)
  • King of Joy, Richard Chiem (Soft Skull Press)
  • My Time Among the Whites, Jennine Capó Crucet (Picador)
  • Build Yourself a Boat, Camonghne Felix (Haymarket Books)
  • Be Recorder, Carmen Giménez Smith (Graywolf Press)
  • Good Talk, Mira Jacob (One World)
  • Erou, Maya Phillips (Four Way Books)
  • while they sleep (under the bed is another country)Raquel Salas Rivera (Birds, LLC)
  • We Cast a Shadow, Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World)
  • The Grave on the Wall, Brandon Shimoda (City Lights Books)

PEN Translation Prize (US$3,000)

This award honors a book-length translation of prose from any language into English published in 2019. Jurors are Sean Gasper Bye, Jim Hicks, Geoffrey C. Howes, Sara Khalili, Elizabeth Lowe, and Jenny McPhee.

  • When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back: Carl’s Book, Naja Marie Aidt (Coffee House Press), translated from Danish by Denise Newman
  • If You Cross the River: A Novel, Geneviève Damas (Milkweed Editions), translated from French by Jody Gladding
  • Happiness, as Such, Natalia Ginzburg (New Directions Publishing), translated from Italian by Minna Zallman Proctor
  • The Ten Loves of Nishino, Hiromi Kawakami (Europa Editions), translated from Japanese by Allison Markin Powell
  • Beyond Babylon, Igiaba Scego (Two Lines Press), translated from Italian by Aaron Robertson
  • The Dead Wander in the Desert, Rollan Seisenbayev (Amazon Crossing), translated from Russian by Olga Nakston and John Farndon
  • Flowers of Mold & Other Stories, Ha Seong-nan (Open Letter Books), translated from Korean by Janet Hong
  • At Dusk, Hwang Sok-yong (Scribe US), translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel, Olga Tokarczuk (Riverhead Books), translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
  • The Scent of Buenos Aires: Stories, Hebe Uhart (Archipelago Books), translated from Spanish by Maureen Shaughnessy

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation (US3,000)

This prize recognizes a book-length translation of poetry from any language into English published in 2019. This year’s jurors are Michael Eskin, Forrest Gander, and Pierre Joris.

  • Time, Etel Adnan (Nightboat Books), translated from French by Sarah Riggs
  • Final Matters: Selected Poems, 2004-2010Szilárd Borbély (Princeton University Press), translated from Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet
  • Poems in Absentia & Poems from The Island and the World, Pedro da Silveira (Tagus Press), translated from Portuguese by George Monteiro
  • Treasure of the Castilian or Spanish Language, Sebastián de Covarrubias Horozco (New Directions Publishing), translated from Spanish by Janet Hendrickson
  • Room in Rome, Jorge Eduardo Eielson (Cardboard House Press), translated from Spanish by David Shook
  • Daybook 1918: Early Fragments, J.V. Foix (Northwestern University Press), translated from Catalan by Lawrence Venuti
  • Killing Plato, Chantal Maillard (New Directions Publishing), translated from Spanish by Yvette Siegert
  • The Winter Garden PhotographReina María Rodríguez (Ugly Duckling Presse), translated from Spanish by Kristin Dykstra and Nancy Gates Madsen
  • Songs from a Single Eye, Oswald von Wolkenstein (New Directions Publishing), translated from the German by Richard Sieburth
  • What We Live For, What We Die For: Selected Poems, Serhiy Zhadan (Yale University Press), Translated from Ukrainian by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay (US$10,000)

This prize recognizes a book of essays published in 2019 that exemplifies the essay form. Its jury includes Jelani Cobb, Daniel Menaker, and Judith Thurman.

  • Anxious Attachments, Beth Alvarado (Autumn House Press)
  • I Used to Be Charming: The Rest of Eve BabitzEve Babitz (New York Review Books Classics)
  • Essays One, Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Resurrection of the Wild: Meditations on Ohio’s Natural Landscape, Deborah Fleming (Kent State University Press)
  • Make It Scream Make It Burn: Essays, Leslie Jamison (Little, Brown and Company)
  • Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones, Daniel Mendelsohn (New York Review Books)
  • I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution, Emily Nussbaum (Random House)
  • Trick Mirror: Reflections of Self-Delusion, Jia Tolentino (Random House)
  • The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays, Esmé Weijun Wang (Graywolf Press)
  • What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays, Damon Young (Ecco)

PEN/Bograd Weld Prize for Biography (US$5,000)

This award is juried this time by David W. Blight, Yunte Huang, Miriam Pawel, Rebecca Walker, and Shawn Wen.

  • Oliver Wendell Holmes: A Life in War, Law, and Ideas, Stephen Budiansky (W. W. Norton & Company)
  • Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall (W. W. Norton & Company)
  • Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures, Adina Hoffman (Yale University Press)
  • The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth, Josh Levin (Little, Brown and  Company)
  • The Lost Prince: A Search for Pat Conroy, Michael Mewshaw (Counterpoint Press)
  • Sontag: Her Life and Work, Benjamin Moser (Ecco)
  • Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian, Sato Moughalian (Stanford University Press)
  • A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, Sonia Purnell (Viking)
  • Grinnell: America’s Environmental Pioneer and His Restless Drive to Save the WestJohn Taliaferro (Liveright)
  • Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s RevolutionHelen Zia (Ballantine Books)

PEN/EO Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing (US$10,000)

This prize honors literary excellence in a book on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience. It’s juried this year by Diane Ackerman, Rivka Galchen, Priyamvada Natarajan.

  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants, Bill Bryson (Doubleday)
  • Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition, Patricia S. Churchland (W.W. Norton & Company)
  • Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves, Frans de Waal (W.W. Norton & Company)
  • Rethinking Consciousness: A Scientific Theory of Subjective Experience, Michael S. A. Graziano (W.W. Norton & Company)
  • On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galapagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary EdenElizabeth Hennessy (Yale University Press)
  • The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, Dahr Jamail (New Press)
  • The Deep History of Ourselves: The Four-Billion-Year Story of How We Got Conscious Brains, Joseph LeDoux (Viking)
  • Hot Carbon: Carbon 14 and a Revolution in Science, John F. Marra (Columbia University Press)
  • Losing Earth: A Recent History, Nathaniel Rich (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, David Wallace-Wells (Tim Duggan Books)

More from Publishing Perspectives on PEN America is here. And more on publishing and literary awards is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.