past event

Aspen Words 2023 Literary Prize Award Ceremony

at The Morgan Library, New York City & Livestreamed
Wednesday, April 19 | 6:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. MT)

The sixth annual awards ceremony program will include a conversation with finalist authors moderated by Kate Tuttle, executive editor, books, at People Magazine, and the announcement of the 2023 winner. A celebratory reception & winner toast will immediately follow the ceremony until 8:30 p.m. ET.

General admission & livestream access are FREE with donations of any amount helping to defray event costs & support our mission.

$250 VIP Tickets are available and include an exclusive docent tour of The Morgan Library, a pre-ceremony prosecco toast, premium reserved seating for the ceremony, a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception following the ceremony, and a hard copy of the prize-winning book. If you select a VIP ticket, please arrive at the Morgan by 5:15 p.m. ET.
The Morgan Highlights tour
will provide an overview of the institution’s history, architecture, historic buildings, and collections, as well as an intimate look at the restored exterior of the J. Pierpont Morgan Library and the Morgan Garden.

Doors: 6 p.m. ET | Event: 6:30-7:45 p.m. ET | Reception: until 8:30 p.m. ET

The shortlisted titles include two short story collections and three novels, one from debut author, Oscar Hokeah (“Calling for a Blanket Dance”). They address a broad range of important contemporary social issues, including the treatment of immigrant farmworkers, queer love, America’s wealth gap and the aftershocks of trauma that affect Native communities in the United States as well as war-torn countries like Afghanistan.

The finalists— Angie Cruz, Oscar Hokeah, Jamil Jan Kochai, Manuel Muñoz and Sarah Thankam Mathews — were selected by a five-member jury comprised of Rumaan Alam, Chris Bryan, Omar El Akkad, Teresa A. Goddu and Dawnie Walton.


Kate Tuttle is an executive editor at People magazine, covering books. A past president of the National Book Critics Circle, she formerly edited the books pages at The Boston Globe. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Poets and Writers, Salon, Dame and elsewhere. Tuttle’s author profiles include subjects such as Salman Rushdie, Susan Orlean and Patricia Lockwood. Her essays have ranged from pondering the popularity of true crime stories among women readers to recounting the year in her childhood when she strongly identified with disgraced president Richard Nixon. A Kansas native, she now lives in New Jersey after long stints in Boston and Atlanta.



“How Not To Drown in a Glass of Water”
by Angie Cruz

“In ‘How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water,’ Angie Cruz constructs an intimate portrait of life in the gears of the capitalist machine. Structurally inventive and flawless in register, this novel serves as a subtle meditation on what it means to survive in America when America is both home and the furthest thing from home. The result is a story of exquisite authenticity, an indictment of the myriad impossible hoops through which those not born into privilege are made, ceaselessly, to jump.” – 2023 Literary Prize Jury


Flatiron – Macmillan
ISBN: 9781250208453

Angie Cruz is the author of the novels “Soledad,” “Let It Rain Coffee” and “Dominicana,” which was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize and a Good Morning America Book Club pick, and most recently, “How Not To Drown in a Glass of Water.” She is founder and editor in chief of Aster(ix), a literary and arts journal, and is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Calling For a Blanket Dance”
by Oscar Hokeah

“At once heartbreaking and hopeful, ‘Calling for a Blanket Dance‘ is one of those rare debuts that feels like the author’s tenth book. Written with absolute control and confidence, this is a generational saga that spans multiple characters and viewpoints, yet remains focused on the aftershocks of trauma, the way damage echoes across time and place. Oscar Hokeah writes beautifully about pain and belonging and the power of family, told through many interpretations of and interactions with its central character, the unforgettable Ever Geimausaddle.” – 2023 Literary Prize Jury

ISBN: 9781643751474

Oscar Hokeah is a citizen of Cherokee Nation and the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma from his mother’s side and has Latinx heritage through his father. He holds an MA in English with a concentration in Native American Literature from the University of Oklahoma, as well as a BFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), with a minor in Indigenous Liberal Studies. He is a recipient of the Truman Capote Scholarship Award through IAIA and is also a winner of the Native Writer Award through the Taos Summer Writers Conference. His short stories have been published in South Dakota Review, American Short Fiction, Yellow Medicine Review, Surreal South, and Red Ink Magazine. He works with Indian Child Welfare in Tahlequah. “Calling For a Blanket Dance” is his first novel. His first novel, “Calling For a Blanket Dance,” is the winner of the PEN America/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel, and is a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize/Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.

“The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories”
by Jamil Jan Kochai 

Jamil Jan Kochai has written a stylistically audacious collection about Afghans, Afghan Americans and the surreal, violent aftershocks of state violence. In 12 masterful stories, Kochai manages both an indictment and de-centering of the West’s decades-long campaign of violence through which countless Afghans have suffered. There is no clean-cut prescriptivism here: these stories of lives lost and regained in the shadow of the war on terror years are as impossible to categorize as they are wondrous to read.” – 2023 Literary Prize Jury


Viking – PRH
ISBN: 9780593297193

Jamil Jan Kochai is the author of “99 Nights in Logar” a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. His short story collection, “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories”was published in July 2022. He was born in an Afghan refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan, but he originally hails from Logar, Afghanistan. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Best American Short Stories. His essays have been published at The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Kochai was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and a Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was awarded the Henfield Prize for Fiction. Currently, he is a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

“The Consequences”
by Manuel Muñoz

“As tender as they are unflinching, the stories in Manuel Muñoz’s brilliant collection offer a deeply human and quietly nuanced portrait of life in California’s Central Valley, where immigrant farmworkers do the often brutal work of keeping the United States fed. It’s difficult to overstate the depth of the characters that populate these stories – the fine shades of their desires and obligations, the things they want to do and the things they must.”
– 2023 Literary Prize Jury


Graywolf Press
ISBN: 9781644452066

Manuel Muñoz is the author of two previous collections and a novel. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, three O. Henry Awards, and has appeared in Best American Short Stories. A native of Dinuba, California, he lives in Tucson, Arizona.

“All This Could Be Different”
by Sarah Thankam Mathews

“Set against the backdrop of the great recession, ‘All This Could Be Different‘ is an honest, haunting and quite often hilarious novel. In beautifully constructed sentences, Sarah Thankam Mathews bares open the workings of a life during those precarious, brittle years during which the entire façade of modern life threatened to crumble. The result is a book about queer love, found families and the struggle to find meaning and place in a world where both seem so often just out of reach.”


Viking – PRH
ISBN: 9780593489123

Sarah Thankam Mathews grew up between Oman and India, immigrating to the United States at seventeen. Her work has been published in Best American Short Stories and she is a recipient of fellowships from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 2020, she founded the mutual aid group Bed-Stuy Strong. “All This Could Be Different” is her first novel.

About the Aspen Words Literary Prize 

The Aspen Words Literary Prize is a $35,000 annual award for an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture. Endowed in perpetuity by an anonymous donor, the prize is open to authors of any nationality. The award will be conferred for books published in English in the United States. Eligible works include novels or short story collections that address questions of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, race or other social issues.  

About Aspen Words
Aspen Words (AW) was founded in 1976 as a literary center based in Aspen, CO. A program of the Aspen Institute, its mission is to encourage writers, inspire readers and connect people through the power of stories. AW’s year-round programs include Summer Words, a writing conference and literary festival; Winter Words, a speaker series presenting the best of contemporary literature; monthlong writing residencies for authors to nourish their craft; and a writers-in-the-schools program. For more information, visit 

Thank you to our 2023 event sponsor:

With additional support from Peter Rigby


Please note Aspen Institute’s health and safety standards here.

Event information
Wed Apr 19, 2023
6:30pm - 7:30pm EDT
The Morgan Library
225 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10016 United States