Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad Wins the 2024 Aspen Words Literary Prize

April 25, 2024

Hammad accepted the award at the Morgan Library in New York City on April 25.

New York, NY, & Aspen, CO, April 25, 2024 –– Aspen Words, a program of the Aspen Institute, this evening announced the recipient of the Aspen Words Literary Prize (AWLP), a $35,000 annual award for a work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.

Isabella Hammad was named winner of the prize for Enter Ghost, a story of diaspora, displacement and the connection to be found in family and shared resistance.

In a citation, the AWLP jury stated: In elegant, nuanced prose, Isabella Hammad tells the story of Sonia Nasir, a stage actress living in London who returns to her homeland of Palestine to visit her sister, Haneen, after many years away, and finds herself roped into a production of Hamlet in the West Bank. Exploring themes of diaspora, displacement and the search for identity, Hammad constructs a world rich in texture and emotion. A poignant narrative of resilience and the quest for belonging,  Enter Ghost  is a dazzling story of self-discovery against the backdrop of displacement.

This is Hammad’s second novel; her first book, The Parisian, won a Palestine Book Award, the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Betty Trask Award from the Society of Authors in the United Kingdom.

As part of the program, Mary Louise Kelly, a host of “All Things Considered,” NPR’s award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, moderated a conversation with prize finalists. The full list of finalist authors included Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Chain-Gang All-Starts), Aaliyah Bilal (Temple Folk), Jamel Brinkley (Witness) and James McBride (The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store).

Hammad was selected as the recipient of the prize by an independent five-member jury comprised of Lan Samantha Chang, Christina Baker Kline, Anthony Marra, Chinelo Okparanta and Simran Jeet Singh.

A recording of the awards ceremony is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50Sjw7oHBzk

LINKS TO IMAGES: Including the Aspen Words Literary Prize logo, Hammad’s headshot and Enter Ghost  book jacket: https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/i9ffxeotja0rj536wi374/AIjYBG46S6gjevHVQtZityA?rlkey=kb6c3pv9yjcb5eb95x6uievls&st=7snbob3d&dl=0


Aspen Words (AW) was founded in 1976 as a literary center based in Aspen, Colorado. A program of the Aspen Institute, its mission is to encourage writers, inspire readers and connect people through the power of stories. AW’s year-round programs include Summer Words, a writers conference; Winter Words, an author speaker series presenting the best of contemporary literature; and educational programs for middle and high school students featuring acclaimed authors and poets. For more information, visit www.aspenwords.org.


The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges. It is headquartered in Washington, DC and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.


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; Louise Erdrich won the 2021 award for The Night Watchman, about Native American dispossession, and Dawnie Walton received the 2022 prize for The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, which explores identity, place and the influence of pop culture. Kamil Jan Kochai was awarded the 2023 prize for The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories, a powerful short story collection about Afghans, Afghan Americans and the surreal, violent aftershocks of state violence. Eligible works include novels or short story collections that address questions of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, racism or other social issues. 


Follow us on Facebook | Instagram | X

Visit us at www.aspenwords.org

Use hashtag #AspenLitPrize



Jon Purves
The Aspen Institute

View Comments