The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton Wins $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize

April 21, 2022

Winner announced during awards celebration at New York City’s Morgan Library

Contact: Mallory Kaufman
Program Associate | Aspen Words
970-925-3122 ext. 2 I

Ben Berliner
Communications Associate I The Aspen Institute
202.706.9532 I

Aspen, CO, April 21, 2022 –This evening, Dawnie Walton was named winner of the $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize (AWLP) for her novel The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, about the meteoric rise of an iconic interracial rock duo in the 1970s, their sensational breakup and the dark secrets unearthed when they try to reunite decades later for one last tour. Walton’s work explores identity, place and the influence of pop culture. The award, which is one of the largest literary prizes of its kind in the United States, was established by the Aspen Institute to honor a work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.

In a citation, the AWLP jury said about The Final Revival of Opal & Nev:

“As innovative in form as it is soulful in delivery, [the novel] is a dazzling exploration of the spectacular and eerie complications of the way race, gender and punk rock necessarily collide. What can these collisions produce? The book is a tutorial in the possibilities and terrifying limitations of an interracial duo who seem to move in two very different directions upon their breakup. Dawnie Walton blurs the lines between revelation and realization in a book that witnesses, and really undulates under, the weight of professional and personal secrets, while picking away at the very real desire for American progress with few substantial models for reciprocal American reckoning.”  

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is Walton’s debut novel. Formerly an editor at Essence and Entertainment Weekly, she has received fellowships in fiction from MacDowell and Tin House, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her writing has appeared in Oxford American, Bon Appetit, NPR, Literary Hub and Black Ballad. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband.  

As part of the awards program, Mary Louise Kelly, host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” moderated a conversation with Walton and three of the finalist authors: Hala Alyan (The Arsonists’ City), Myriam J.A. Chancy (What Storm, What Thunder) and Kirstin Valdez Quade (The Five Wounds). A fourth finalist, Omar El Akkad (What Strange Paradise) was unable to attend the event due to a prior commitment.

A recording of the awards ceremony is available here:

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 jury for the 2022 prize included Angie Cruz, Danielle Evans, Ann B. Friedman and Kiese Laymon. In addition to a cash award, the winner of the AWLP receives a unique trophy designed by sculptor Leah Aegerter of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center near Aspen, Colorado. | |

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

Download book jacket, author headshot, 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 global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society.  Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world.  Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.  For more information, visit


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