Isabella Hammad Wins Aspen Literary Prize 

April 26, 2024  • Aspen Words

Last night at the Morgan Library in New York, Aspen Words announced the recipient of the Aspen Words Literary Prize (AWLP), a $35,000 annual award for a work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture. Isabella Hammad won for her novel Enter Ghost, a story of the connection to be found in family and shared resistance. 

This is Hammad’s second novel; her first book, The Parisian, won a Palestine Book Award, the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Betty Trask Award from the Society of Authors in the United Kingdom. 

Isabella Hammad receiving the Aspen Words Literary Prize. Photo by Richard Jopson.

The AWLP jury stated: “In elegant, nuanced prose, Isabella Hammad tells the story of Sonia Nasir, a stage actress living in London who returns to her homeland of Palestine to visit her sister, Haneen, after many years away, and finds herself roped into a production of Hamlet in the West Bank. Exploring themes of diaspora, displacement and the search for identity, Hammad constructs a world rich in texture and emotion. A poignant narrative of resilience and the quest for belonging, Enter Ghost  is a dazzling story of self-discovery against the backdrop of displacement.”

As part of the program, Mary Louise Kelly, a host of NPR’s award-winning afternoon newsmagazine “All Things Considered,” moderated a conversation with prize finalists. The full list of finalist authors included Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Chain-Gang All-Stars), Aaliyah Bilal (Temple Folk), Jamel Brinkley (Witness), and James McBride (The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store).

Hammad was selected as the recipient of the prize by an independent five-member jury comprised of Lan Samantha Chang, Christina Baker Kline, Anthony Marra, Chinelo Okparanta, and Simran Jeet Singh.

This summer, Enter Ghost will be featured in a Community Read program sponsored by Aspen Words and Pitkin County Library in Aspen, Colorado. As part of the program, several hundred free copies of the novel will be distributed throughout Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. 

You can watch a video of the evening below.