The $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize Names Its 2024 Longlist

In News by Porter Anderson

The Aspen Words Literary Prize in issue-driven fiction lists its seventh season’s longlist, with a winner announcement in April.

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

Brodeur: ‘Engaging, Illuminating, and Provocative’
While a small number of internationally significant fiction awards tend to focus on serious and meaningful work, the US$35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize is one that specifically states it’s purpose is to recognize “an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.”

For that reason, this is a book awards program followed by those who may have tired of the frequent focus in other fiction competitions on entertainment and/or specific genre. Now in its seventh iteration, the Aspen’s 14-title longlist includes four story collections and 10 novels.

Four of these works are their authors’ debut publications: Temple Folk by Aaliyah Bilal; What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jiménez; The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro; and When Trying to Return Home: Stories by Jennifer Maritza McCauley.

This year’s jury comprises:

  • Lan Samantha Chang
  • Christina Baker Kline
  • Anthony Marra
  • Chinelo Okparanta
  • Simran Jeet Singh

Adrienne Brodeur

Aspen Words executive director, the author Adrienne Brodeur, in a prepared statement on today’s announcement, is quoted, saying, “It’s always an honor to announce the Aspen Words Literary Prize longlist.

“These dynamic works of fiction tackle subjects including racism, religion, capitalism, antisemitism, the United States’ judicial system, and others, and in doing so, exemplify our mission to connect people through stories.

“It’s our hope that you’ll find them engaging, illuminating, and provocative, and that they’ll spark dialogue in your communities.”

The Aspen’s shortlist is anticipated on March 13, followed by the program’s awards event at the Morgan Library in New York City on April 25.

Aspen Words Literary Prize 2024 Longlist
Author Title Publisher, Imprint
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah Chain-Gang All-Stars Penguin Random House / Pantheon
Aaliyah Bilal Temple Folk Simon & Schuster
Jamel Brinkley Witness Macmillan / FSG
Stephen Buoro The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa Bloomsbury Publishing
Isabella Hammad Enter Ghost Grove Atlantic / Grove Press
Sonora Jha The Laughter HarperCollins / HarperVia
Claire Jiménez What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez Hachette / Grand Central Publishing
F. Kuang Yellowface HarperCollins / William Morrow
Rebecca Makkai I Have Some Questions for You Penguin Random House / Viking
James McBride The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store Penguin Random House / Riverhead
Jennifer Maritza McCauley When Trying To Return Home: Stories Penguin Random House / Counterpoint
Alejandro Varela The People Who Report More Stress: Stories Astra House
Jesmyn Ward Let Us Descend Simon & Schuster / Scribner
C Pam Zhang Land of Milk and Honey Penguin Random House / Riverhead
Previous Winners of the Aspen Words Literary Prize

The inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize was presented to Mohsin Hamid in 2018 for Exit West.

Subsequent honors have gone to:

  • Tayari Jones in 2019 for An American Marriage, her novel about racism and unjust incarceration
  • Christy Lefteri in 2020 prize for The Beekeeper of Aleppo, about Syrian refugees
  • Louise Erdrich in 2021 award for The Night Watchman, about Native American dispossession
  • Dawnie Walton in 2022 for The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, which explores identity, place, and the influence of pop culture
  • Jamil Jan Kochai in 2023 for The Haunting of Hajji Hotak

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