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2011 PEN Award Winners Announced

Yesterday the PEN American Center announced that 17 lucky writers had been chosen to receive an assortment of literary awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes, including three brand new awards: the PEN Emerging Writers Awards, the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. Tomorrow evening in Manhattan, the winners and runners-up will be honored at an awards ceremony at the City University of New York. Next year will mark PEN’s 90th anniversary, so we’ll keep you up-to-date on all the events in 2012 that will be worth weighing in on. In the meantime, let’s celebrate a few of the writers who have proven themselves to be worthy of cold, hard cash as well as the esteem of notable judging panels.

The winners of the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for promising literary debuts are two talented women who we’ve covered in the past: Susanna Daniel for her novel Stiltsville, which is about a difficult couple who moves to the Biscayne Bay, and Danielle Evans for her collection of incredible short stories about young women and men of color who just can’t get a break, titled, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.

One of our favorite writers, Aleksandar Hemon, received the PEN/W. G. Sebald Award for a Fiction Writer in Mid-Career, which “honors an author who has published at least 3 significant works of literary fiction, either novels or short story collections, with the promise of more to come.” The $10,000 prize should come in handy as Hemon works on his upcoming novel. (His last contribution was The Lazarus Project, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award.) You can read his latest essay about the heartbreaking struggle to deal with his daughter’s brain tumor in the New Yorker here.

The recently revived PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay gives $5,000 to an author for a “book of essays published in 2010 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem of the essay form.” The judges were André Aciman, Jo Ann Beard, and William H. Gass, and the winner is: Mark Slouka for Essays from the Nick of Time: Reflections and Refutations, an ambitious collection on the human experience, and how to manage to keep our humanity in a world that now runs only in fast-forward. The Harper’s contributor has written about a slew of topics for the venerable monthly since the ’90s, and he’s deserving of all the praise he’s getting. The runners-up were Elif Batuman for The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, and Alex Ross for his excellent take on music culled from his New Yorker columns, titled, Listen to This. Congratulations to all for keeping the craft alive!

In regards to true stories that amaze and enlighten, the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction is “a biennial award for a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective published in 2009 or 2010,” and provides a $10,000 prize to the author. The judges were Charles R. Morris, Elaine Showalter, and Lee Siegel, and the winner: Robert Perkinson for Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire, which The New York Times Book Review called “an alarming indictment, built on passionate and exhaustive research.” The two runners-up are John W. Dower for Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq and Isabel Wilkerson for The Warmth of Other Suns.

Check out the full list of winners on PEN’s website.

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