Aspen Institute Announces 2019 Judges for Aspen Words Literary Prize

October 8, 2018

NPR to return as the media complement for the fiction award’s second year

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

Contact: Isabel Lara
Senior Director, Media Relations | NPR
202-513-2300‪ | 

Aspen, CO, October 8, 2018 – The Aspen Institute announced the judges for the second cycle of the Aspen Words Literary Prize, a $35,000 annual award for a work of fiction that addresses vital contemporary issues. As the award’s media complement, NPR will jointly announce the longlist, finalists and winner.

Submissions closed to publishers in August, and a preliminary selection committee is currently reading close to 200 nominations before the longlist announcement on November 19, 2018. A five-member jury will tackle the longlist to determine the finalists and the winner in the first quarter of 2019.

The judges include writer and feminist Dorothy Allison, author of National Book Award finalist “Bastard Out of Carolina”; Suzanne Bober, who has worked as a magazine and book editor in New York City and currently holds the position of president of the Aspen Words Advisory Board; Elliot Gerson, executive vice president at the Aspen Institute and American Secretary to the Rhodes Trust, responsible for the U.S. Rhodes Scholarships; Farah Jasmine Griffin, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies and the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies at Columbia University, and the author of five books; and Samrat Upadhyay, author of five books and a finalist for the 2018 Aspen Words Literary Prize for his short story collection “Mad Country.”

“Judging the Aspen Words Literary Prize is an excellent way for me not only to read some of the best contemporary fiction but also to help promote outstanding books that tackle important social issues of our times,” said Upadhyay, who will serve as head judge on the committee. “It’s both a pleasure and an honor.”

Endowed in perpetuity by an anonymous donor, the inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize was awarded in April 2018 to Mohsin Hamid for “Exit West,” a novel about migration and refugees.  The prize is one of the largest purses given by a literary award, and will be 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. As a premier source for book discovery, reviews and author profiles, NPR Books is uniquely positioned to help engage audiences around the role of literature in society.

“We are delighted to be working again with NPR,” said Aspen Words Executive Director Adrienne Brodeur. “The purpose of the award is not just to reward and encourage one writer, but to draw attention to the broader significance of fiction in exploring critical issues and building empathy. By announcing our lists and participating in the awards ceremony, NPR is helping to expand the audience for influential fiction.”

“Much like NPR’s mission, books have the potential to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures,” says Senior Supervising Editor of NPR’s Arts Desk Ellen Silva. “We look forward to working with the Aspen Institute again to help engage audiences around the role of literature in society.” | | #AspenLitPrize

More information about the Aspen Words Literary Prize is available at:

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

NPR Books helps a busy audience find great reads. The site combines the best of NPR’s on-air interviews and news with original reviews, recommendations and lists. It includes comprehensive non-fiction books coverage which complements NPR’s public service mission to cover big ideas in the news; and the end of the year “Books Concierge” which adds to the expanding library of outstanding books coverage at NPR Books. NPR Books is also a leader in genre coverage making sure to give science fiction and fantasy, Young Adult, and graphic novels the smart analysis they deserve. Read on at


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