Exit West by Mohsin Hamid was named the winner of the inaugural 2017 Aspen Words Literary Prize, a $35,000 award for a work of fiction with social impact. Hamid’s book is a profound work about war, survival, exile, immigration, and love. The winning author—along with the four finalists, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Zinzi Clemmons, Samrat Upadhyay, and Jesmyn Ward—was announced on April 10 at a ceremony in the Morgan Library in New York City before a crowd of authors, publishers, and literary enthusiasts. The evening included a talk with Arimah, Clemmons, and Upadhyay moderated by NPR’s Michel Martin.
The jury for the prize included authors Phil Klay, Alondra Nelson, Akhil Sharma, Stephen Carter, and Jessica Fullerton. The $35,000 award, endowed in perpetuity by an anonymous donor, is one of the largest literary prizes in the United States and one of the few focused exclusively on fiction with social impact; eligible works must be novels or short-story collections published in English that address questions of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, or race. The winner also receives a trophy designed by Michael Lorsung of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, near Aspen.