The Shortlists for the 2013 PEN Literary Awards


The PEN American Center, the largest branch of the world’s leading literary and human rights organization, has received a record number of submissions for its annual literary awards. The increased submissions are a “true testament to the impact these awards have on the literary community, at home and abroad,” says PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel. “For this reason, we have decided to release the shortlists and to highlight the hard work of our dedicated judges, so that the recognition that accompanies PEN’s awards program can benefit as many writers as possible. Writers supporting writers and standing together on behalf of free expression are the core of PEN’s mission. Our Literary Awards unite our community to celebrate the greatest achievements that creative freedom makes possible.”

The winners of nearly $150,000 in prizes, fellowships, and grants will be announced in October 2013. Below is the shortlist and judges for the 2013 PEN Literary Awards. For more follow @PENamerican.


PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize ($25,000): To an author whose debut work — a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2012 — represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.

JUDGES: Tom Drury, Danielle Evans, and Donald Ray Pollock


  • A Land More Kind Than Home (William Morrow), Wiley Cash
  • A Naked Singularity (University of Chicago Press), Sergio de la Pava
  • My Only Wife (Dzanc Books), Jac Jemc
  • Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain (W.W. Norton & Co.), Lucia Perillo
  • Battleborn (Riverhead Books), Claire Vaye Watkins

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction ($10,000): To an author of a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues which has been published in the United States during 2011 or 2012.

JUDGES: Eliza Griswold, Maya Jasanoff, and Edward Mendelson


  • Iron Curtain (Doubleday), Anne Applebaum
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Random House), Katherine Boo
  • Moby-Duck (Penguin Books), Donovan Hohn
  • God’s Hotel (Riverhead Books), Victoria Sweet

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): For a book of essays published in 2012 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.

JUDGES: Sven Birkerts, Robert Gottlieb, and Mark Kramer


  • What Light Can Do (Ecco), Robert Hass
  • The Story of America (Princeton University Press), Jill Lepore
  • Waiting for the Barbarians (New York Review Books), Daniel Mendelsohn

PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000): For a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of the physical or biological sciences published in 2012.

JUDGES: Deborah Blum, Katherine Bouton, and Jerome Groopman


  • The Forest Unseen (Viking), David George Haskell
  • The Violinist’s Thumb (Little, Brown and Company), Sam Kean
  • Subliminal (Vintage Books), Leonard Mlodinow
  • Spillover (W.W. Norton & Co.), David Quammen
  • Rabid (Viking), Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

PEN Open Book Award ($5,000): For an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color published in 2012.

JUDGES: Cyrus Cassells, Porochista Khakpour, and Tiphanie Yanique


  • Gun Dealers’ Daughter (W.W. Norton & Co.), Gina Apostol
  • When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press), Natalie Diaz
  • Allegiance (Wayne State University Press), Francine J. Harris
  • Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press), Brenda Shaughnessy
  • The Grey Album (Graywolf Press), Kevin Young

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000): For a distinguished biography published in 2012.

JUDGES: Debby Applegate, Peter Orner, and Charles Shields


  • James Joyce (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Gordon Bowker
  • All We Know (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Lisa Cohen
  • A Difficult Woman (Bloomsbury), Alice Kessler-Harris
  • The Lives of Margaret Fuller (W.W. Norton & Co.), John Matteson
  • The Black Count (Broadway Books), Tom Reiss

PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To honor a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2012.

JUDGES: Jane Leavy, William Leitch, and Ben McGrath


  • Over Time (Grove Press), Frank Deford
  • Road to Valor (Broadway Books), Aili and Andres McConnon
  • Like Any Normal Day (St. Martin’s Press), Mark Kram, Jr.
  • Floyd Patterson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), W.K. Stratton

PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing ($5,000): To a writer for an exceptional story illustrated in a picture book published in 2012.

JUDGES: Barbara Shook Hazen, David Wiesner, and Cheryl Willis Hudson


  • Snakes (Scholastic), Nic Bishop
  • Oh, No! (Schwartz & Wade Books), Candace Fleming and illustrator Andrea Castellani
  • I Lay My Stitches Down (Eerdmans), Cynthia Grady and illustrator Michele Wood
  • Those Rebels, John & Tom (Scholastic), Barbara Kerley and illustrator Edwin Fotheringham
  • The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau (Eerdmans), Michelle Markel and illustrator Amanda Hall

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000): For a book-length translation of poetry into English published in 2012.

JUDGE: Don Mee Choi


  • Spit Temple by Cecilia Vicuña (Ugly Duckling Presse), Rosa Alcalá
  • Diadem by Marosa di Giorgio (BOA Editions), Adam Giannelli
  • Tales of a Severed Head by Rachida Madani (Yale University Press), Marilyn Hacker
  • The Smoke of Distant Fires by Eduardo Chirinos (Open Letter Books), G. J. Racz
  • Almost 1 Book/Almost 1 Life by Elfriede Czurda (Burning Deck), Rosmarie Waldrop
  • The Shock of the Lenders and Other Poems by Jorge Santiago Perednik (Action Books), Molly Weigel

PEN Translation Prize ($3,000): For a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2012.

JUDGES: Margaret Carson, Bill Johnston, and Alex Zucker


  • A Long Day’s Evening by Bilge Karasu (City Lights Books), Aron Aji and Fred Stark
  • Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector (New Directions), Alison Entrekin
  • Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Rosalind Harvey
  • The Cardboard House by Martín Adán (New Directions), Katherine Silver
  • The Island of Second Sight by Albert Vigoleis Thelen (Galileo Publishers), Donald O. White


(The following PEN Awards do not have shortlists but are listed below to announce the participation of those authors who are judging the awards. The winners will be announced in August along with all of the winners for the book awards.)

PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry ($5,000): To a new and emerging poet of any age who has not published more than one book of poetry.

JUDGES: Henri Cole, Dorianne Laux, and Robert Wrigley

PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award For an American Playwright in Mid-Career and a Master American Dramatist ($7,500): A pair of awards, which honor a Master American Dramatist and an American Playwright in Mid-Career.

JUDGES: Pam MacKinnon, Christopher McElroen, and Tim McHenry

PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship ($5,000): To an author of children’s or young-adult fiction, who has published at least two novels, to complete a book-length work-in-progress.

JUDGES: Deborah Heiligman, Angela Johnson, Julie Anne Peters

PEN/Nora Magid Award ($2,500): To honor a magazine editor whose high literary taste have, throughout his or her career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication he or she edits.

JUDGES: Jin Auh, Robin Desser, and Anna Holmes

PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To a writer whose body of work represents an exceptional contribution to the field.

JUDGES: David Granger, Laura Hillenbrand, and Steve Isenberg

PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000): To support the translation of book-length works into English.

JUDGES: Susan Bernofsky, Barbara Epler, Michael F. Moore*, Richard Sieburth, Lauren Wein, Eliot Weinberger, Natasha Wimmer, and Matvei Yankelevich (*Non-voting chair of the PEN Translation Fund Advisory Council.)

— Benjamin Samuel is the co-editor of Electric Literature. Follow him on Twitter.

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