Aspen Institute announces Aspen Words Literary Prize longlist

Staff report

The longlist was released Monday for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, which offers a $35,000 award for a work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue.

This year’s list runs 14 titles long, with seven fiction debuts and five short story collections:

  • When We Were Sisters, by Fatimah Asghar (One World – PRH)
  • Glory, by NoViolet Bulawayo (Viking – PRH)  
  • How Not To Drown in a Glass of Water: A Novel, by Angie Cruz (Flatiron – Macmillan) 
  • If I Survive You, by Jonathan Escoffery (MCD – FSG)
  • The Last White Man, by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead – PRH)
  • Calling For a Blanket Dance, by Oscar Hokeah (Algonquin)
  • The Last Suspicious Holdout, by Ladee Hubbard (Amistad – HarperCollins)
  • The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories, by Jamil Jan Kochai (Viking – PRH)
  • What We Fed to the Manticore, by Talia Laskhmi Kolluri (Tin House)
  • The Consequences, by Manuel Muñoz (Graywolf Press)
  • Harry Sylvester Bird, by Chinelo Okparanta (Mariner Books – HarperCollins)
  • Memphis, by Tara Stringfellow (Dial Press – PRH)
  • All This Could be Different: A Novel, by Sarah Thankam Mathews (Viking – PRH)
  • The Town of Babylon: A Novel, by Alejandro Varela (Astra House)

The jury for the prize — Rumaan Alam (a 2021 finalist), Chris Bryan, Omar El Akkad (a 2022 finalist), Teresa Goddu, and Dawnie Walton (the 2022 winner) — will read all the longlisted books to determine the five finalists and winner for 2023.

“The AWLP celebrates exceptional works of fiction that expand perspectives and build compassion around critical human, social, and global concerns,” said Aspen Words Executive Director Adrienne Brodeur. “The powerful books on this longlist tell stories that are set against or address directly the climate crisis, racism, xenophobia, and mental health, among others, and feature a range of dynamic voices, including debut as well as established authors.”

The Aspen Words Literary Prize is awarded annually to an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture, according to Aspen Words.

Open to authors of any nationality, the award is one of the largest literary prizes in the United States 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, his novel about migration and refugees. Tayari Jones won the 2019 prize for An American Marriage, her novel about racism and unjust incarceration; Christy Lefteri received the 2020 prize for her novel The Beekeeper of Aleppo, about Syrian refugees; Louise Erdrich won the 2021 award for The Night Watchman, about Native American dispossession; and Dawnie Walton won the 2022 award for The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, which explores identity, place and the influence of pop culture.

Eligible works include novels or short story collections that address questions of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, racism, or other social issues.

The finalists will be announced on March 6, 2023, and the winner will be revealed at an awards celebration at the Morgan Library in New York City on April 19, 2023. More information:

Aspen Words was founded in 1976 as a literary center based in Aspen. A program of the Aspen Institute, its mission is to encourage writers, inspire readers, and connect people through the power of stories. For more information, visit


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