Aspen Words Literary Prize finalists announced
Four novels and one short story collection were named finalists for the Aspen Words Literary Prize on Wednesday morning.
The $35,000 annual award goes to a work of fiction that illuminates vital contemporary issues.
The shortlisted books are: “Friday Black” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah; “Brother” by David Chariandy; “Gun Love” by Jennifer Clement; “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones and “There There” by Tommy Orange.
Two of the finalists, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and Tommy Orange, are debut authors, while David Chariandy, Jennifer Clement and Tayari Jones have all published previous books to critical acclaim. The finalists were selected by a five-member jury including author Dorothy Allison, Aspen Words advisory board president Suzanne Bober, Columbia University professor Farah Griffin, Aspen Institute vice president Elliot Gerson and author Samrat Upadhyay, who was a finalist for the prize last year for “Mad Country.”
The award is one of the largest literary prizes in the U.S. and one of the few focused exclusively on fiction with a social impact. The inaugural award was presented to Mohsin Hamid in 2018 for “Exit West.” Eligible works include novels or short story collections that address questions of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, race or other social issues.
The shortlisted titles address social issues in America and the world such as racial inequality, class disparities and gun violence.
“These books tackle societal problems with humor and large doses of compassion,” said Upadhyay, the head judge. “Most important, they are all beautifully written books filled with compelling characters, striking imagery and attention to detail that made them such a pleasure to read.”
The $35,000 winner will be announced live at an awards ceremony in New York City at The Morgan Library on Thursday, April 11. The finalists will participate in a conversation moderated by Renee Montagne of NPR News.
Tickets are available at aspenwords.org. Additionally, in late spring, Aspen Words, in partnership with the Pitkin County Library, will distribute free copies of the winning book for a community read program in Aspen, to feature discussions and other activities.
The winner will speak at Aspen Summer Words at a public event in Aspen on June 18.
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Aspen Words’ literary conference and festival is back in-person after a pandemic hiatus and a move from June to autumn.