Aspen Institute Names Its 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize Longlist

In News by Porter Anderson

Now in its fifth award cycle, the $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize names 16 books to its 2022 longlist, with a shortlist to come on February 23.

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

Brodeur: ‘Tenderness and Tenacity’
A slate of 16 novels has been announced today (November 10) in the fifth annual cycle of the still relatively young Aspen Words Literary Prize, directed by author Adrienne Brodeur.

Among the many awards programs in publishing and books, the Aspen Institute’s honor is distinguished for its emphasis on “an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.”

Works considered for this award include “novels or short-story collections that address questions of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, racism or other social issues.”

In addition to its specialization in serious, culturally relevant material, its purse—at US$35,000 for the winner—makes it one of the richest such awards in the American book community.

The jury for the prize—Angie Cruz, Danielle Evans, Ann Friedman, Kiese Laymon and Pádraig Ó Tuama—will read all longlisted books to determine the five finalists and winner.

Adrienne Brodeur

Brodeur, in making today’s announcement, says, “It’s been thrilling to watch the prize gain in recognition and acclaim each year.

“The 16 novels that comprise this year’s longlist explore questions of freedom and identity, exile and belonging, and are set against the ravages of colonialism, consumerism and classism.

“But what makes these works so powerful is how the stories are told through the multidimensional lens of family —nuclear, relational, parentless, childless—revealing how tenderness and tenacity shape outcome.”

In this year’s longlist, there are three contenders from Simon & Schuster imprints, and two each from WW Norton, Knopf, and HMH Books. And several of these authors have recently been featured in our coverage of other awards programs.

The 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize Longlist

Longlisted authors in the 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize are, top row from left, Nawaaz Ahmed; Omar El Akkad (image: Kateshia Pendergrass); Hala Alyan; and Tahmina Anam. On the second row from left, Myrian JA Chancy; Peter Ho Davies; Linda Rui Feng; Kaitlyn Grennidge (image: Syreeta McFadden). On the third row from left, Jacob Guanzon; Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (image: Sydney Foster; Jason Mott; and Eric Nguyen (image: Tim Coburn). And on the bottom row, Richard Powers (image: Dean C. Dixon); Kirsten Valdez Quade (image: Holly Andres); Karen Tucker (image: Jared Lipo); and Dawnie Walton

As it happens, this year’s Aspen Words longlist titles are especially interesting. From The Startup Wife to Bewilderment and Bewilderness, as well as Things We Lost to the Water, A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself, and The Arsonists’ City, intriguing titles are a feature of this year’s longlist.

Author Title Publisher, Imprint
Nawaaz Ahmed Radiant Fugitives Counterpoint Press
Omar El Akkad What Strange Paradise Alfred A. Knopf
Hala Alyan The Arsonists’ City HMH Books
Tahmina Anam The Startup Wife Scribner
Myriam JA Chancy What Storm, What Thunder Tin House
Peter Ho Davies A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself HMH Books
Linda Rui Feng Swimming Back to Trout River Simon & Schuster
Kaitlyn Greenidge Libertie Workman/Algonquin
Jakob Guanzon Abundance Graywolf Press
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois HarperCollins
Jason Mott Hell of a Book Dutton
Eric Nguyen Things We Lost to the Water Alfred A. Knopf
Richard Powers Bewilderment WW Norton
Kirstin Valdez Quade The Five Wounds WW Norton
Karen Tucker Bewilderness Catapult
Dawnie Walton The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
Simon & Schuster/37 Ink

This year’s finalists are to be named on February 23 and the winner is to be named on April 21 at the program’s customary awards event at New York City’s Morgan Library.

Aspen Words is a literary center founded under the aegis of the Aspen Institute.

More from Publishing Perspectives on international awards programs is here. More from us on the Aspen Words Literary Prize is here, more on the American book business is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing 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.