Aspen Institute Announces the Longlist for the 2020 Aspen Words Literary Prize

November 14, 2019

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

Contact: Elizabeth Nix
Program Associate | Aspen Words
970-925-3122 ext. 4 |

Aspen, CO, November 14, 2019 – 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.

  • Opioid, Indiana by Brian Allen Carr (Soho Press)
  • Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha (Ecco)
  • Dominicana by Angie Cruz (Flatiron Books)
  • Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright)
  • Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (One World)
  • The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (Pantheon Books)
  • The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri (Ballantine Books)
  • Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf)
  • The Beadworkers: Stories by Beth Piatote (Counterpoint Press)
  • The Affairs of the Falcóns by Melissa Rivero (Ecco)
  • We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World)
  • The World Doesn’t Require You: Stories by Rion Amilcar Scott (Liveright)
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)
  • Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington (Riverhead Books)
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson (Riverhead Books)

More information:

The 16 longlisted titles include 12 novels and four short story collections, and six of the selections are by debut authors. The five finalists and winner will be selected by a five-member jury that includes acclaimed writers Alexander Chee, Saeed Jones and Esmeralda Santiago. Aspen Words announced the longlist in collaboration with NPR Books, the official media partner for the award.

“Fiction can help bridge divides across political, racial and socioeconomic lines, said Aspen Words Executive Director Adrienne Brodeur. “This year’s longlist includes titles that grapple with many of our biggest contemporary challenges—racial injustice, family separation and immigration, opioid addiction. But they are also stories of triumph and hope—a reckoning with colonial history, a reclamation of the American Dream, a reflection of human resiliency and a celebration of so many voices left out of conventional literature.”

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 2018 for Exit West, his novel about migration and refugees. Tayari Jones won the 2019 prize for An American Marriage, her novel about racism and unjust incarceration. 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 19, 2020, and the winner will be revealed at an awards ceremony at The Morgan Library in New York City on April 16, 2020.

The jury for the prize—Alexander Chee, Amy Garmer, Saeed Jones, Helen Obermeyer, Esmeralda Santiago—will read all longlisted books to determine the finalists and winner. | | #AspenLitPrize

Download author headshots and book jackets:

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 a community-serving organization with global reach whose vision is the creation of a free, just, and equitable society. For 70 years, the Institute has driven change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the world’s greatest challenges. With headquarters in Washington, DC, the Institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado and New York City, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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