Lauding Lit

Aspen Words Just Announced the Finalists for Its Literary Prize

The eventual winner of the prestigious fiction award will receive $35,000.

By Cindy Hirschfeld February 20, 2019

Last year's Aspen Words Literary Prize winner Mohsin Hamid speaks with Dan Porterfield at the Summer Benefit.

Five finalists for the second annual Aspen Words Literary Prize were announced this morning, and the shortlist includes four novels and a short-story collection. The finalists, chosen from among 16 submissions, are Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Tommy Orange, David Chariandy, Jennifer Clement, and Tayari Jones. Adjei-Brenyah and Orange are debut authors.

To be eligible for the prize—presented by Aspen Words, a program of the Aspen Institute, in collaboration with NPR Books—works of fiction had to address a contemporary issue with social impact, showcasing literature’s transformative power. This year’s finalists take on racial inequality, gun violence, and criminal injustice, among other subjects. 

Finalists were selected by a five-member jury consisting of acclaimed author and feminist Dorothy Allison, Aspen Words board president Suzanne Bober, Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University and literature professor Farah Jasmine Griffin, Aspen Institute Executive Vice President Elliot Gerson, and author Samrat Upadhyay, who was a finalist for last year’s prize.

The prize includes a trophy designed by Anderson Ranch artist Michael Lorsung.

The award recipient will receive $35,000, one of the largest prizes in the literary world for a work of fiction. Along with the cash prize, the winning author will receive a trophy designed by sculptor Michael Lorsung of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center and be a featured speaker during a panel at Aspen Summer Words on June 18.

The winner will be announced on April 11 at an awards ceremony at New York City’s Morgan Library. All five finalists will join a discussion moderated by Renee Montagne, special host and correspondent for NPR News. Additionally, in late spring, the Pitkin County Library will offer free copies of the winning title for a community reads program. Tickets for the awards ceremony are available at

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