NEW YORK—PEN America announced the finalists for the 2018 Literary Awards today, revealing a diverse roster of authors and works to recognize today’s best literature and translation spanning genres and continents.

For the first time, the finalist pool for the prestigious PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction is comprised entirely of women, including Hannah Lillith Assadi for Sonora (Soho Press), Venita Blackburn for Black Jesus and Other Superheroes: Stories (University of Nebraska Press), Carmen Maria Machado for Her Body and Other Parties: Stories (Graywolf Press), Emily Fridlund for History of Wolves (Grove Atlantic), and Jenny Zhang for Sour Heart (Lenny).

The announcement also included finalists for the $75,000 PEN/Jean Stein Award for book of the year, one of the largest literary prizes in the country, established last year by the late author and oral historian. Addressing some of the key themes of our time, from fraudulent news to systemic racism, the list includes White Tears by Hari Kunzru (Alfred A. Knopf), We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World), Whereas by Layli Long Soldier (Graywolf Press), Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young (Graywolf Press), and The Changeling by Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau). 

Ursula K. Le Guin, whose sudden death earlier this week has been deeply felt within the literary community, also appears on shortlist for No Time to Spare, nominated for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. 

“It is fitting that our Literary Awards this year spotlight five new women’s voices in fiction, as well as a dazzling diversity of writers for our flagship Stein prize and in other categories,” said PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel. “PEN America’s Literary Awards celebrate some of the greatest fruits of free expression—stories that inspire, spark empathy, and change minds. At a time when the fabric of our discourse is being torn by polarization, technological change, and political upheaval, literature has the power to help us see past impasse and imagine a different future.”

Winners of the 2018 PEN America Literary Awards will be revealed at the February 20 ceremony at the NYU Skirball Center in New York.  

For over 50 years, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across such diverse fields as fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, translation, and drama. With the help of its partners and supporters, PEN America will confer 24 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes in 2018, awarding more than $350,000 to writers and translators. 

The full shortlists are available at:


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.