Aspen Words announces 14 contenders for annual literary prize
The $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize is one of the largest book awards in the country, and one of the few that focuses exclusively on fiction with a social impact.
This year’s longlist, released on Wednesday, includes 10 novels and four short story collections this year, all of which touch on major contemporary issues.
“These dynamic works of fiction tackle subjects including racism, religion, capitalism, antisemitism, the United States judicial system, and others, and in doing so, exemplify our mission to connect people through stories,” Aspen Words Executive Director Adrienne Brodeur said in a press release.
In addition to a monetary prize, the winning book earns the designation of Aspen Words’ annual “Community Read,” with free copies distributed to local readers and an author talk scheduled for later in the year.
“It is our hope that you will find them engaging, illuminating, and provocative, and that they will spark dialogue in your communities,” Brodeur said.
The longlist includes four works by debut authors this year: “Temple Folk” by Aaliyah Bilal, “What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez” by Claire Jiménez, “The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa” by Stephen Buoro, and “When Trying to Return Home: Stories,” by Jennifer Maritza McCauley.
And several other authors have already been widely recognized for their previous works.
Alejandro Varela, who is on the longlist for his short story collection “The People Who Report More Stress,” was a finalist for the National Book Award last year. Jesmyn Ward, on the Aspen Words list for her novel “Let Us Descend,” has won the National Book Award twice; she was also part of the MacArthur “genius” fellowship program in 2017.
Two books on this year’s Aspen Words longlist are also finalists for the National Book Award: Bilal’s “Temple Folk” and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s novel “Chain Gang All-Stars.”
This is the seventh year Aspen Words has offered the prize, which is open to authors of any nationality. A panel of five celebrated writers — Lan Samantha Chang, Christina Baker Kline, Anthony Marra, Chinelo Okparanta and Simran Jeet Singh — will determine the five finalists and the winner of the prize.
Aspen Words will announce the shortlist on March 13, and the winner will be revealed at a ceremony in New York City on April 25.
2024 Aspen Words Literary Prize Longlist
Note: When available, we’ve linked the book title to an NPR or NPR affiliate station interview with the author. If a title isn’t linked, there isn’t an NPR interview with the author available yet online.
- “Chain-Gang All-Stars” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
- “Temple Folk” by Aaliyah Bilal
- “Witness” by Jamel Brinkley
- “The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa” by Stephen Buoro
- “Enter Ghost” by Isabella Hammad
- “The Laughter” by Sonora Jha
- “What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez” by Claire Jiménez
- “Yellowface” by R.F. Kuang
- “I Have Some Questions for You” by Rebecca Makkai
- “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store” by James McBride
- “When Trying to Return Home: Stories” by Jennifer Maritza McCauley
- “The People Who Report More Stress: Stores” by Alejandro Varela
- “Let Us Descend” by Jesmyn Ward
- “Land of Milk and Honey” by C Pam Zhang