Christy Lefteri Wins Aspen Words Literary Prize

June 1, 2020  • Institute Staff

On April 16, during a daylong virtual celebration, Christy Lefteri was named winner of the Aspen Words Literary Prize for her novel The Beekeeper of Aleppo, about Syrian refugees in Great Britain. Mary Louise Kelly, the co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, and the 2020 judges Esmeralda Santiago, Alexander Chee, and Amy Garmer conducted a Zoom conversations with Lefteri and the four other finalists: Brian Allen Carr, the author of Opioid, Indiana; Nicole Dennis-Benn, the author of Patsy; Valeria Luiselli, the author of Lost Children Archive; and Bryan Washington, the author of Lot. The books include one story collection and four novels, and explore issues of immigration, drug addiction, homophobia, and income inequality among other entrenched social ills. This year’s jury included Santiago, a best-selling memoirist and novelist who served as head judge; Chee, an acclaimed author and an associate professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College; Garmer, the founding director of the Institute’s Dialogue on Public Libraries; Saeed Jones, a memoirist and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for poetry; and Helen Obermeyer, a longtime Aspen Words supporter and a board member of the legal-aid organization Alpine Legal Services. Lefteri received a $35,000 cash prize—one of the largest in the United States for a literary work and one of the only prizes dedicated to fiction with social impact.