2018 Feb 25
PEN America is both a literary society and a human rights organization. Being part of a worldwide association (PEN International), it gives voice to writers who have been harassed and suppressed from voicing their views. Needless to say, PEN America is big on endorsing freedom of speech.
Amongst their Free Expression Programs, they also hold various committees, annual literary awards and a financial assistance program in their mission to unite writers and promote creative expression. The PEN America Literary Awards has been yet another way to promote and honor the best literature of our times across various genres and awards a total of more than $350,000 to writers and translators.
The 2018 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony was held on the 20th February at the NYU Skirball Center in NYC and without further ado, here are this year’s winners!
PEN/ Jean Stein Award:
Whereas – Layli Long Soldier
In this volume of poetry, Whereas confronts the coercive language of the United States Government in its responses, apologies and lies to the Native American communities and tribes, reflecting on Long Soldier’s own experiences on being Lakota, American, mother, student and artist.
PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction:
Sour Heart – Jenny Zhang
In a collection of 7 stories, Zhang centers on a community of immigrants that have traded their endangered lives as Artists in China and Taiwan for a life of poverty in New York City. Graphic, provocative and complex, Zhang’s collection is essentially a series of coming-of-age tales told from each girl’s perspective and is not for the faint of heart.
PEN Open Book Award:
A Moonless Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men fighting Extremism in Africa – Alexis Okeowo
In her debut, Okeowo intertwines four stories in her narrative of the darker aspects of life as an African- a young couple, kidnap victims of Joseph Kony’s LRA; a Mauritanian waging a campaign against modern-day slavery; women’s basketball team floushiring despite strict restrictions set upon them in Somalia; and a vigilante who takes up arms against the Boko Haram.
PEN/ Edward and Lily Tuck Prize for Paraguayan Literature:
Fantasmario – Javier Viveros
Set during the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia in the early thirties, Viveros doesn’t focus on the patriotic Paraguayan defense but rather, confronts and questions war itself, and the mark it leaves on its survivors.
PEN/ Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay:
No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters – Ursula K. Le Guin
PEN/ Translation Prize:
Katalin Street – Magda Szabo, translated by Len Rix
Translated from Hungarian, Rix possesses the mastery to flawlessly illuminate Szabo’s work, which tracks the upheaval of the intertwined lives of three Budapest families before and after the World War ll.
PEN/ Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography:
Richard Nixon: The Life – John A. Farrell
PEN/ E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award:
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine – Lindsey Fitzharris
Historian, Fitzharris, reveals to us in dramatic detail the horrors of nineteenth-century surgery on the eve of transformation. At a time, when surgery could not have been more hazardous, visionary surgeon-Joseph Lister- steps forward and changes the course of history.
PEN/ ESPN Award for Literary Sports
Ali: A Life – Jonathan Eig
In a comprehensive and definitive biography, best-selling author Eig uses his many connections to reveal to us the complexity of Muhammad Ali’s life, his politics, religion, personal life and neurological condition.
Apart from individual books, awards were handed out for career achievements of esteemed authors as well as emerging writers. One such being the Robert J. Dau’s Short Story Prize handed out for emerging writers Elinam Agbo, Lauren Friedlander, Christina Fires and many others authors.
The ceremony also honored the work of the translators that added to PEN America’s admirable cause by helping unify and recognize current literature worldwide and 13 grants were given out to each of the translators for their accomplishments.