PEN's 2014 Shortlists Are Out, So Let's Take a Look at Who's On 'Em

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On Wednesday morning, the world got their first look at PEN's 2014 shortlists across all categories, and as expected, each is packed tight with major contenders. The literary organization gives out 17 different awards including biography, translation, poetry, sportswriting, picture books, lifetime achievement recognition, and more, but let's zoom into a couple of categories in particular and highlight their nominees.

First: the $25,000 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, which goes to a debut novelist or short story-writer for a work that's not only outstanding, but also "suggests great promise." (No pressure.) The winner, judged by Charles Bock, Jonathan Dee, Fiona Maazel, and Karen Shepard, will be selected from:

  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth) by Anthony Marra
  • Brief Encounters With the Enemy (The Dial Press) by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
  • Everybody’s Irish (FiveChapters Books) by Ian Stansel
  • Godforsaken Idaho (Little A/New Harvest) by Shawn Vestal
  • The People in the Trees (Doubleday) by Hanya Yanagihara (above)

Totally unsurprising: Anthony Marra, who has been nominated for seemingly everything under the sun, including the Young Lions Fiction Award (which he lost to Paul Yoon earlier this month), and the John Leonard Prize, which he won in March. Awesome surprise: To see a book from a tiny press like FiveChapters Books make the shortlist; it's fantastic to see indies getting big nods like this, especially following Eimear McBride's big win for the Women's Prize on an independent press.

Let's also take a peek at the PEN Open Book Award, worth $5,000, which goes to an exceptional book-length work by a writer of color published last year. Judged by Catherine Chung, Randa Jarrar, and Monica Youn, the nominees are 4/5 women, which I'm all about:

  • Duppy Conqueror (Copper Canyon Press) by Kwame Dawes
  • Leaving Tulsa (University of Arizona Press) by Jennifer Elise Foerster
  • domina Un/blued (Tupelo Press) by Ruth Ellen Kocher
  • Cowboys and East Indians (FiveChapters Books) by Nina McConigley
  • Ghana Must Go (Penguin Press) by Taiye Selasi

Huge congrats to all the nominees. The winners will be unveiled on July 30, and honored on Sept. 29 in New York City.