Breakout Novelist Tommy Orange Wins $25,000 PEN/Hemingway Award for There There
Séan Hemingway To Present Award During Ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, April 7, 2019
NEW YORK, NY—Critically-acclaimed debut author Tommy Orange is the winner of the 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award for his novel There There (Knopf), PEN America announced today. Honoring a distinguished first novel, Tommy Orange will receive $25,000 underwritten by the Hemingway Family and the Hemingway Foundation, as well as a month-long Residency Fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a retreat for artists and writers, valued at $10,000. Séan Hemingway, the grandson of the American writer Ernest Hemingway, will present the prestigious literary award to Tommy Orange on Sunday, April 7, during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
Orange’s There There illuminates the lives of urban Native Americans, and explores their struggles with identity and authenticity. This year’s judges—authors Cristina Garcia, Dinaw Mengestu, and Scott Simon—called There There a “devastatingly beautiful novel, as acutely attuned to our current cultural and political condition as it is to the indelible legacy of violence that brought us here.” The judges added that “The breadth and scope of this novel are matched only by the fierce and relentless intelligence that Orange brings to his characters, who despite tragedy, heartbreak and loss, reside in a remarkable world of hard-earned grace.”
“Orange’s novel is striking in its range and depth, and it is exceptional for a debut novel to disrupt and expand the landscape of American fiction the way that There There has,” said Literary Awards Program Director Nadxieli Nieto. “It is exactly this kind of groundbreaking work that the PEN/ Hemingway Award honors.”
Tommy Orange is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and was born and raised in Oakland, California. He received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), and was a 2014 MacDowell Fellow and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. Orange joins other notable PEN/Hemingway winners and honorees including Marilynne Robinson, Edward P. Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Haigh, ZZ Packer, George Saunders, Ha Jin, Yiyun Li, Teju Cole, and Ottessa Moshfegh—a four-decade lineage of literary excellence founded in 1976 by Mary Hemingway, the widow of Ernest Hemingway, to honor her late husband and draw attention to debut novels. (See the complete list here.)
The two PEN/Hemingway runners-up are Akwaeke Emezi for Freshwater (Grove) and Ling Ma for Severance (Macmillan). Two writers will receive Honorable Mention: Meghan Kenny for The Driest Season (W.W. Norton) and Nico Walker for Cherry (Knopf). Runners-up and Honorable Mentions each receive a Residency Fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming.
The PEN/Hemingway Award Ceremony will take place at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on Sunday, April 7, from 2 to 3pm and is free and open to the public. RenownedVietnamese-American novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen will be the keynote speaker. Those interested in attending should call the library at (617) 514-1643 or register online at www.jfklibrary.org to reserve a seat.
The PEN/Hemingway Award Ceremony is supported by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the Hemingway Family, and the Friends of the Ernest Hemingway Collection.
The Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library spans Hemingway’s entire career, and contains ninety percent of existing Hemingway manuscript materials, making the Kennedy Library the world’s principal center for research on the life and work of Ernest Hemingway. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis described Mary Hemingway’s gift of Ernest Hemingway’s papers to the Kennedy Library as helping “to fulfill our hopes that the Library will become a center for the study of American civilization, in all its aspects.”
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is one of 14 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and is supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Presidential Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.