Aspen Words announces 16 works considered for $35,000 literary prize

Staff report

The long list of works being considered for the second annual Aspen Words Literary Prize was announced Monday, and those vying for the $35,000 prize include 11 novels and five short-story collections.

The award goes to a work of fiction that looks at contemporary social issues. Five judges will pare down and announce a list of finalist in February, and the winner will be announced April 11 at an awards ceremony at the Morgan Library in New York.

The 16 works on the list (listed alphabetically by author’s last name) are:

“Friday Black” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah; “The Boat People” by Sharon Bala; “A Lucky Man” by Jamel Brinkley; “America is Not the Heart” by Elaine Castillo; “Brother” by David Chariandy; “Gun Love” by Jennifer Clement; “Freshwater” by Akwaeke Emezi; “Small Country” by Gaël Faye; “Where the Dead Sit Talking” by Brandon Hobson; “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones; “The Incendiaries” by R.O. Kwon; “Severance” by Ling Ma; “Bring Out the Dog” by Will Mackin; “There There” by Tommy Orange; “If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi” by Neel Patel; and “Heads of the Colored People” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires.

“It’s astonishing to see the number of debut authors on this list; new voices can often help us see the world more clearly, with a different perspective,” Adrienne Brodeur, executive director of Aspen Words, said in a statement Monday. “Many of the topics covered in these books are in the news cycle — gun violence, immigration, police brutality, Native American culture — but fiction allows us to examine these issues with more compassion.”

Mohsin Hamid won the inaugural prize in April 2018 for “Exit West,” his novel about migration and refugees. The Pakistani author later discussed his book in Aspen at the Summer Words literary conference.

For more information on the books and authors, go to