Editor siblings Lorraine and Edward Currelley enjoy a delightful conversation with Paul Coates, who accepted the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielovogel Award on behalf of his son Ta-Nehisi Coates before the PEN Awards
April 11, was a great evening for writers. The Currelley Literary Journal covered the annual PEN Awards. It was a delightful evening shared with some of the most talented and prolific writers. Highlights included speeches of heartfelt gratitude. Stories of struggle, persistence and commitment to craft. The importance of telling a great story and respecting and honoring subjects. I felt honored to be a member of this community of writers. It was truly an emotionally impactful evening, rooted in words eloquently articulated. Thank you PEN Awards for sharing their powerful words below.
PEN America named Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose monograph on race and society Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Random House) has met massive critical acclaim since it was released in July, took the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. His father, Paul Coates, accepted the award on his behalf of his son.
Distinguished Pantheon Books editor Erroll McDonald accepted the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, announced earlier this spring, on behalf of his mentor and longtime friend Toni Morrison, who was unable to attend due to a long-planned distinguished lectureship at Harvard.
“The books, authors, subjects, and subjectivities that this year’s judges found most worthy of PEN Literary Awards are ones that give voice to the voiceless, put the marginalized in the mainstream, and tell stories untold,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN America. “This roster of winners is a reminder that literature and art don’t flourish in a box. Literature and art live and breathe the debates, dilemmas, doubts, and divides that dog their writers and their readers. One of the most potent answers to offensive speech has always been more speech; here tonight we celebrate the power of literature as counter-narrative, an elixir that helps us discover our better selves.”
Mia Alvar won the $25,000 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Story Collection ‘In the Country’ Published by Alfred A. Knopf, In the Country comprises nine stories giving voice to the Filipino diaspora as its characters reflect on their cultural identities to confront the traumas of the past and the uncertainties of the future. “It is rare to find a debut of such depth and breadth, work singing with the grace of a thousand doomed lifetimes compressed into stories both luminous and empathic, populated by memorable characters facing such keenly felt challenges,” judges Helon Habila, Elizabeth McCracken, Edie Meidav, and Jess Row wrote in their citation for the award.
“This book was such a private labor of love for so long, and I feel incredibly lucky that it found a team of people that cared about it almost as much as I did, if not more,” said Alvar as she accepted the prize, presented by Chair of PEN’s Awards Committee and winner of the 2004 PEN/Bingham Prize Monique Truong. “I want to acknowledge a special debt to the Filipino-American and Filipino literary community. These are poets and fiction writers and everything in between who have been working for generations out of sense of urgency and love, and not always visible rewards. I thank them for the stories they’ve told and inspired me with, and also for welcoming me so generously into their conversation—or party, more accurately.”winner of the 2016 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction this evening at a ceremony in New York for her short story collection In the Country.
PEN announced the winners of three other awards live at the April 11 ceremony.
Lauren Redniss won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award for Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future (Random House). The PEN Open Book Award went to Rick Barot for Chord (Sarabande Books), the author’s third collection of poetry.
For more than 50 years, the PEN Literary Awards have honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across such diverse fields as fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, translation, and drama. With the help of its partners and supporters, PEN will confer 19 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes in 2016, awarding nearly $200,000 to writers and translators. A complete list of 2016 winners is available at https://pen.org/blog/announcing-2016-pen-literary-award-winners
Photos of the 2016 Literary Awards Ceremony will be available by 12-noon on Tuesday, April 12 atbit.ly/2016-pen-ceremony
Founded in 1922, PEN America is an association of 4,400 U.S writers working to break down barriers to free expression worldwide. Its distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and the advancement of human rights of such past members as Langston Hughes, ArthurMiller, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck. www.pen.org