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Aspen Words Literary Prize announces longlist for 2021

Staff report

Aspen Words released its 15-book longlist of titles vying for the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize on Tuesday morning.

The annual $35,000 award goes to a work of nonfiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue.

The 15 longlisted titles include 13 novels, five of them debuts, and two short story collections.

The longlist contenders are “Black Sunday” by Tola Rotimi Abraham (Catapult); “Against the Loveless World” by Susan Abulhawa (Atria Books); “Leave the World Behind” by Rumaan Alam (Harper Collins/Ecco); “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett (Riverhead Books); “The New Wilderness” by Diane Cook (Harper Collins); “Fiebre Tropical” by Juliana Delgado Lopera (Feminist Press); “The Death of Vivek Oji” by Akwaeke Emezi (Riverhead Books); “The Night Watchman” by Louise Erdrich (Harper Collins); “The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories” by Danielle Evans (Riverhead Books); “Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyasi (Alfred A. Knopf); “If I Had Two Wings: Stories” by Randall Kenan (W.W. Norton & Company); “A Children’s Bible: A Novel” by Lydia Millet (W.W. Norton & Company); “A Girl is a Body of Water” by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Tin House); “Real Life” by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead Books); and “Memorial” by Bryan Washington (Riverhead Books).

Though the majority of books on the list came from Big Five publishing houses, some small presses, including Tin House, Catapult and Feminist Press, also were represented for the first time.

The jury for the prize — Emily Bernard, Sarah Lapido Manyika, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Daniel Shaw and Luis Alberto Urrea, — will read all longlisted books to determine the five finalists and winner. Aspen Words announced the longlist in collaboration with NPR Books, the official media partner for the award.

“The books on this longlist examine subjects that cut across racial, economic, political and sexual divides,” said Aspen Words executive director Adrienne Brodeur. “In the pages of these books, we read about many of the issues that are playing out before our eyes during this time of social upheaval — climate collapse, government breakdown, racism and sexism. And therein lies the power of reading fiction: to create empathy and allow us to imagine better ways of existing.”


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