PEN America announced today the establishment of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, a literary honor that will be conferred annually on a book that has broken new ground and signals strong potential for lasting influence.

The new award will recognize a book-length work of any genre for “originality, merit, and impact” spotlighting a work of literature that reshapes the boundaries of its form. Funded by oral historian Jean Stein, the $75,000 award will be among the largest literary prizes in the U.S., as well as the largest prize offered by PEN.  In a departure for the PEN America Literary Awards, the judging panel of distinguished writers will serve anonymously. The panel will nominate candidates internally and without submissions from the public.

“The PEN/Jean Stein Book Award will focus global attention on remarkable books that propel experimentation, wit, strength, and the expression of wisdom,” said PEN America President Andrew Solomon. “As an organization that champions literature¹s power to change the world, PEN is especially pleased to recognize work that honors creative ambition and rejoices in imagination. We are immensely grateful to Jean Stein for this opportunity to celebrate books that rethink our culture and humanity.”

Stein¹s own literary pursuits have engaged some of the most influential figures in American culture, including an interview with William Faulkner for The Paris Review in 1956. She chronicled the life of Robert F. Kennedy with editor George Plimpton in the 1970 book American Journey: The Times of Robert Kennedy. In 1982, she was the author of Edie: American Girl, which was also edited with Plimpton. Most recently, she profiled five prominent families from Los Angeles in West of Eden. From 1990 to 2004, Stein was the editor of Grand Street, a literary and visual arts magazine.

In addition to the book award, Stein will also sponsor a new PEN America Literary Award for oral history. The PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Oral History will award $10,000 to support the completion of a literary work of nonfiction that uses oral history to illuminate an event, individual, place, or movement.

The PEN America Literary Awards is the most comprehensive awards program in the country, offering prizes across a wide range of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, theater, translation, and more. With the addition of these two new awards, the 2017 PEN Literary Awards will confer over $250,000 to writers and translators.

Both new awards sponsored by Stein will be conferred for the first time in 2017, with the inaugural honorees to be named at the PEN Literary Awards Ceremony in New York in February.


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.