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Here are the finalists for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards.

Rasheeda Saka

February 10, 2021, 11:43am

Today, PEN America announced the finalists for its 2021 Literary Awards, which recognizes and honors “dynamic, imaginative, and thought-provoking” books published in the last year. Previous winners include Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Imani Perry, and Yiyun Li.

The 55 finalists were selected across 11 categories—PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, Open Book Award, Debut Short Story Collection, Debut Novel, Poetry Collection, Poetry in Translation, Translation, Essay, Science Writing, Biography, and Nonfiction—by a panel of esteemed writers, editors, translators, and critics, who collectively read over 1,850 books for this Award’s cycle.

The winner in each category will be announced live at a virtual ceremony on April 8, 2021. A hearty congrats to all!

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Finalists for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards

PEN/JEAN STEIN BOOK AWARD

Anthony Cody, Borderland Apocrypha

Akwaeke Emezi, The Death of Vivek Oji

Ross Gay, Be Holding: A Poem

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, The Freezer Door

Kawai Strong Washburn, Sharks in the Time of Saviors

PEN OPEN BOOK AWARD

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, A Treatise on Stars

Hafizah Geter, Un-American

S*an D. Henry-Smith, Wild Peach

Asako Serizawa, Inheritors

Souvankham Thammavongsa, How to Pronounce Knife: Stories

PEN/ROBERT W. BINGHAM PRIZE FOR DEBUT SHORT STORY COLLECTION

Dima Alzayat, Alligator & Other Stories

Miriam Cohen, Adults and Other Children

Mary South, You Will Never Be Forgotten

Shruti Swamy, A House Is a Body

Michael X. Wang, Further News of Defeat

PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FOR DEBUT NOVEL

Maisy Card, These Ghosts Are Family

Raven Leilani, Luster

Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain

Kawai Strong Washburn, Sharks in the Time of Saviors

C Pam Zhang, How Much of These Hills Is Gold

PEN/VOELCKER AWARD FOR POETRY COLLECTION

Rae Armantrout, Conjure

Victoria Chang, Obit

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Age of Phillis

John Murillo, Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry

Gerald Stern, Blessed as We Were: Late Selected and New Poems, 2000–2018

PEN AWARD FOR POETRY IN TRANSLATION

Garous Abdolmalekian, Lean Against This Late Hour
Translated from the Persian by Ahmad Nadalizadeh and Idra Novey

Amang, Raised by Wolves: Poems and Conversations
Translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury

Helena Boberg, Sense Violence
Translated from the Swedish by Johannes Göransson

Lucía Estrada, Katabasis
Translated from the Spanish by Olivia Lott

Serhiy Zhadan, A New Orthography
Translated from the Ukrainian by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

PEN TRANSLATION PRIZE

Kaouther Adimi, Our Riches
Translated from the French by Chris Andrews

Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida, That Hair: A Novel
Translated from the Portuguese by Eric M. B. Becker

Juan Cárdenas, Ornamental
Translated from the Spanish by Lizzie Davis

Jessica Schiefauer, Girls Lost
Translated from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel

Abdellah Taïa, A Country for Dying
Translated from the French by Emma Ramadan

PEN/DIAMONSTEIN-SPIELVOGEL AWARD FOR THE ART OF THE ESSAY

Barbara Ehrenreich, Had I Known: Collected Essays

Vivian Gornick, Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader

Robert Michael Pyle, Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays

Natasha Sajé, Terroir: Love, Out of Place

Luc Sante, Maybe the People Would Be the Times

PEN/E.O. WILSON LITERARY SCIENCE WRITING AWARD

Jennifer Ackerman, The Bird Way

Rebecca Giggs, Fathoms: The World in the Whale

Emily Levesque, The Last Stargazers

Sonia Shah, The Next Great Migration

Jonathan C. Slaght, Owls of the Eastern Ice

PEN/JACQUELINE BOGRAD WELD AWARD FOR BIOGRAPHY

Sudhir Hazareesingh, Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture

Ben Hubbard, MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman

Peniel E. Joseph, The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

Heather Dune Macadam, 999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz

Amy Stanley, Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World

PEN/JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH AWARD FOR NONFICTION

Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House

Beth C. Caldwell, Deported Americans: Life after Deportation to Mexico

Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

Robert Kolker, Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

[h/t PEN]

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