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In December, we announced the longlists of the 2017 PEN America literary awards. The lists of finalists are now out, and thankfully, a few of our favorite authors are still in the running.

Teju Cole has emerged a finalist in two different categories. He is up for both the $10,000 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay and the $75,000 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award.

Petina Gappah and Yaa Gyasi are also shortlisted for their respective novels, The Book of Memory and Homegoing, as is Helen Oyeyemi for her short story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. Gyasi is a finalist for the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction while Gappah and Oyeyemi are in the running for the $5,000 PEN/Open Book Award.

Cole makes history as the first author to be selected finalist in two awards. No one has had that privilege in PEN America’s 54-year existence. Traditionally, publishers are allowed to submit a book in only one category. But the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award is set up differently. Since it is not open for submissions and is, instead, based on nomination by the panel of judges, it is a standalone prize. As a result, finalists of the prize can also be finalists in any one of the other categories.

The PEN/Jean Stein Book Award is in its maiden edition and is designed to “recognize a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact.”  Teju is now up against four other authors: Tyehimba Jess for Olio; Hisham Matar for The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between; Jane Mayer for Dark Money; and Colson Whitehead for The Underground Railroad.

The 2017 PEN America awards season will be the organization’s biggest yet, conferring 19 different awards, fellowships and grants for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting and translation to the tune of $315,000.

Below is full list of finalists as announced on the organization’s website.

***

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000):

To an author whose debut work—a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2016—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise of a second work of literary fiction.

FINALISTS:
Insurrections by Rion Amilcar Scott
We Show What We Have Learned by Clare Beams
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Hurt People by  Cote Smith

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000):

“For a book of essays published in 2016 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.”

FINALISTS:
The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood by Belle Boggs
Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole
A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and The Mind by Siri
Hustvedt
The Girls in My Town by Angela Morales
Becoming Earth by Eva Saulitis

PEN Open Book Award ($5,000):

For an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color published in 2016.

FINALISTS:
The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
The Big Book of Exit Strategies by Jamaal May
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Look by Solmaz Sharif
Blackacre by Monica Youn

Congratulations to them all. Big congratulations to Teju Cole for this remarkable feat.

About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017), for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. His conversations appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. Born in Aba, he combined history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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