Aspen Institute Announces the Longlist for the 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize

November 10, 2021

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

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


Aspen, CO, November 10, 2021 – 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 illuminates a vital contemporary issue.

  • Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed (Counterpoint Press)
  • What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad (Knopf)
  • The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan (HMH Books)
  • The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam (Scribner)
  • What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J.A. Chancy (Tin House)
  • A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself by Peter Ho Davies (HMH Books)
  • Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng (Simon & Schuster)
  • Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin)
  • Abundance by Jakob Guanzon (Graywolf Press)
  • The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Harper Collins)
  • Hell of a Book by Jason Mott (Dutton)
  • Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen (Knopf)
  • Bewilderment by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton)
  • The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade (W.W. Norton)
  • Bewilderness by Karen Tucker (Catapult)
  • The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton (37 Ink)

More information:

The 16 longlisted titles are novels, eight of them debuts. More than half the books were published by small and mid-size independent presses.

The jury for the prize—Angie Cruz, Danielle Evans, Ann Friedman, Kiese Laymon and Pádraig Ó Tuama—will read all longlisted books to determine the five finalists and winner.

“This year marks the fifth cycle of the Aspen Words Literary Prize and it’s been thrilling to watch the prize gain in recognition and acclaim each year,” said Aspen Words Executive Director Adrienne Brodeur. “The 16 novels that comprise this year’s longlist explore questions of freedom and identity, exile and belonging, and are set against the ravages of colonialism, consumerism and classism. But what makes these works so powerful is how the stories are told through the multidimensional lens of family —nuclear, relational, parentless, childless—revealing how tenderness and tenacity shape outcome.”

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; Christy Lefteri received the 2020 prize for her novel The Beekeeper of Aleppo, about Syrian refugees; and Louise Erdrich won the 2021 award for The Night Watchman, about Native American dispossession. Eligible works include novels or short story collections that address questions of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, racism or other social issues.

The finalists will be announced on February 23, 2022, and the winner will be revealed at an awards celebration at the Morgan Library in New York City on April 21, 2022. | | #AspenLitPrize

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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 global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. For 70 years, the Institute has driven change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most critical challenges facing communities at home and around the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado, and New York City, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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