Aspen Institute Announces the Longlist for the 2019 Aspen Words Literary Prize

November 19, 2018

Sixteen titles are in the running for the $35,000 award recognizing fiction that addresses vital contemporary issues

Contact: Caroline Tory
Program Manager | Aspen Words
970-925-3122 ext. 3 |

Aspen, CO, November 19, 2018 – Aspen Words, a program of the Aspen Institute, today announced the longlist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize (AWLP), a $35,000 annual award for a work of fiction that addresses a vital contemporary issue.

  • Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Mariner Books)
  • The Boat People by Sharon Bala (Doubleday)
  • A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley (Graywolf Press)
  • America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo (Viking)
  • Brother by David Chariandy (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • Gun Love by Jennifer Clement (Hogarth)
  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove Press)
  • Small Country by GaëlFaye (Hogarth)
  • Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson (Soho Press)
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Algonquin Books)
  • The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (Riverhead Books)
  • Severance by Ling Ma (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Bring Out the Dog by Will Mackin (Random House)
  • There There by Tommy Orange (Knopf)
  • If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel (Flatiron Books)
  • Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Atria/37 INK)

More information:

The 16 longlisted titles include 11 novels and five short story collections, and a majority of the selections are by debut authors. The five finalists and winner will be selected by a five-member jury that includes acclaimed feminist writer Dorothy Allison and 2018 AWLP finalist Samrat Upadhyay. Aspen Words announced the longlist in collaboration with NPR Books, the official media partner for the award. Their announcement of the award can be read here:

“It’s astonishing to see the number of debut authors on this list; new voices can often help us see the world more clearly, with a different perspective,” said Adrienne Brodeur, Executive Director of Aspen Words. “Many of the topics covered in these books are in the news cycle – gun violence, immigration, police brutality, Native American culture –but fiction allows us to examine these issues with more compassion. I hope that this list will help get these books in more readers’ hands, while also sparking meaningful dialogue around some of our greatest challenges today.”

About the Aspen Words Literary Prize

The $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize is awarded annually to an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture. Open to authors of any nationality, the award is one of the largest literary prizes in the United States, and one of the few focused exclusively on fiction with a social impact. The inaugural award was presented to Mohsin Hamid in April 2018 for Exit West, his novel about migration and refugees. Eligible works include novels or short story collections that address questions of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, race or other social issues.

The finalists will be announced on February 20, 2019 and the winner will be revealed at an Awards Ceremony at the Morgan Library in New York City on April 11, 2019.

The jury for the prize—Dorothy Allison, Suzanne Bober, Elliot Gerson, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Samrat Upadhyay—will read all longlisted books to determine the finalists and winner. | | #AspenLitPrize

Download book jackets and author headshots:

Aspen Words Literary Prize logo:

Aspen Words 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. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, CO; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit 


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