In December I told you about the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards Longlist. As promised, they have now released their finalists.
The virtual Literary Awards Ceremony will be held on April 8, 2021.
This $75,000 award is given to “a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact, which has broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence.” This year’s judges were Vievee Francis, Fred Moten, and Tommy Orange.
- Borderland Apocrypha by Anthony Cody (Omnidawn)
- The Death of Vivek Oji: A Novel by Akwaeke Emezi (Riverhead Books)
- Be Holding: A Poem by Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press)
- The Freezer Door by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents)
- Sharks in the Time of Saviors: A Novel by Kawai Strong Washburn (MCD)
Given to “an exceptional book-length work of any literary genre by an author of color,” this $10,000 award was judged this year by Toi Derricotte, Brandon Hobson, Katie Kitamura, Jamil Jan Kochai, Akil Kumarasamy, and Solmaz Sharif.
- A Treatise on Stars by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge (New Directions Publishing)
- Un-American by Hafizah Geter (Wesleyan University Press)
- Wild Peach by S*an D. Henry-Smith (Futurepoem Books) Small Press Distributions
- Inheritors by Asako Serizawa (Doubleday)
- How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa (Little, Brown and Company)
This $25,000 award goes “to an author whose debut collection of short stories represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise for future work.” This year’s judges were Ben Marcus, Elizabeth McCracken, and Ingrid Rojas Contreras.
- Alligator & Other Stories by Dima Alzayat (Two Dollar Radio)
- Adults and Other Children: Stories by Miriam Cohen (Ig Publishing)
- You Will Never Be Forgotten: Stories by Mary South (FSG Originals)
- A House Is a Body: Stories by Shruti Swamy (Algonquin Books)
- Further News of Defeat: Stories by Michael X. Wang (Autumn House Press)
This $10,000 award goes to “a debut novel of exceptional literary merit by an American author.” Judges for the 2021 awards were Ramona Ausubel, Jack Livings, and Stuart Nadler.
- These Ghosts Are Family: A Novel by Maisy Card (Simon & Schuster)
- Luster: A Novel by Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Shuggie Bain: A Novel by Douglas Stuart (Grove Press)
- Sharks in the Time of Saviors: A Novel by Kawai Strong Washburn (MCD)
- How Much of These Hills Is Gold: A Novel by C Pam Zhang (Riverhead Books)
This $5,000 award goes to “a poet whose distinguished collection of poetry represents a notable and accomplished literary presence,” and was judged by Sherwin Bitsui, Cynthia Cruz, Terrance Hayes, Claudia Keelan, and Bao Phi.
- Conjure by Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan University Press)
- Obit by Victoria Chang (Copper Canyon Press)
- The Age of Phillis by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Wesleyan University Press)
- Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry by John Murillo (Four Way Books)
- Blessed as We Were: Late Selected and New Poems, 2000–2018 by Gerald Stern (W. W. Norton & Company)
The winner of this award “for a book-length translation of poetry from any language into English” gets $3,000. The judges are Daniel Borzutsky, Marissa Davis, and Meg Matich.
- Lean Against This Late Hour by Garous Abdolmalekian (Penguin Books) Translated from the Persian by Ahmad Nadalizadeh and Idra Novey
- Raised by Wolves: Poems and Conversations by Amang (Phoneme Media) Translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury
- Sense Violence by Helena Boberg (Black Ocean) Translated from the Swedish by Johannes Göransson
- Katabasis by Lucía Estrada (Eulalia Books) Translated from the Spanish by Olivia Lott
- A New Orthography by Serhiy Zhadan (Lost Horse Press) Translated from the Ukrainian by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin
$3,000 goes to the winner of the best “book-length translation of prose from any language into English.” Judges are Jacqui Cornetta, Somrita Urni Ganguly, Ana L. Méndez-Oliver, Amanda Sarasien, Niloufar Talebi, and Sevinç Türkkan.
- Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi (New Directions Publishing) Translated from the French by Chris Andrews
- That Hair: A Novel by Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida (Tin House) Translated from the Portuguese by Eric M. B. Becker
- Ornamental by Juan Cárdenas (Coffee House Press) Translated from the Spanish by Lizzie Davis
- Girls Lost by Jessica Schiefauer (Deep Vellum) Translated from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel
- A Country for Dying: A Novel by Abdellah Taïa (Seven Stories Press) Translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
$15,000 goes to “a seasoned writer whose collection of essays is an expansion on their corpus of work and preserves the distinguished art form of the essay.” 2021 judges are Sandra Cisneros, John D’Agata, and Adam Gopnik.
- Had I Known: Collected Essays by Barbara Ehrenreich (Twelve)
- Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader by Vivian Gornick (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays by Robert Michael Pyle (Counterpoint Press)
- Terroir: Love, Out of Place by Natasha Sajé (Trinity University Press)
- Maybe the People Would Be the Times by Luc Sante (Verse Chorus Press)
This $10,000 award is given “for a work that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience.” Judges are Nassir Ghaemi, Christine Kenneally, Erin Macdonald, and Banu Subramaniam.
- The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think by Jennifer Ackerman (Penguin Press)
- Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs (Simon & Schuster)
- The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers by Emily Levesque (Sourcebooks)
- The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move by Sonia Shah (Bloomsbury Publishing)
- Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl by Jonathan C. Slaght (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The winner of “a biography of exceptional literary, narrative, and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research” receives $5,000. Judges are Nicholas Buccola, Karl Jacoby, Nell Painter, and Anna Whitelock.
- 999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune Macadam (Citadel)
- MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman by Ben Hubbard (Tim Duggan Books)
- Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World by Amy Stanley (Scribner)
- Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture by Sudhir Hazareesingh (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. by Peniel E. Joseph (Basic Books)
“For a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective that illuminates important contemporary issues,” this award is judged by Roxane Gay, Thomas Page McBee, Dunya Mikhail, Eric Schlosser, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Laura Wides-Muñoz. The prize is $10,000.
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)
- Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman (W. W. Norton & Company)
- The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom (Grove Atlantic)
- Deported Americans: Life After Deportation to Mexico by Beth C. Caldwell (Duke University Press)
- Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker (Doubleday)
Disclosure: Book Riot’s managing editor is on the PEN America Literary Awards Committee