Aspen Words Literary Prize: Meet the 2020 Finalists

April 16, 2020  • Aspen Words

During a virtual celebration on April 16, the Aspen Institute will award the third annual Aspen Words Literary Prize. The $35,000 award, which is one of the largest literary prizes of its kind in the United States, honors a work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.

Following is a series of virtual conversations between the judges and each of the finalist authors in the running for the prize. Additionally, featured below is a discussion with Aspen Institute President Dan Porterfield and Aspen Words Executive Director Adrienne Brodeur on the role of literature in our present moment.

The winner will be announced and acceptance speech broadcasted at and on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at 4pm MT/6pm ET on April 16. Tune in and join the conversation with #AspenLitPrize.

Finalist Nicole Dennis-Benn in conversation with Judge Amy Garmer

Nicole Dennis-Benn is the author of two novels, “Patsy” and “Here Comes the Sun,” a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the Lambda Literary Award. Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, she teaches at Princeton University and lives with her wife in Brooklyn. 

Finalist Bryan Washington in conversation with Judge Alexander Chee

Bryan Washington is the author of the short story collection “Lot.” He has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, BuzzFeed, Vulture, The Paris Review, Tin House, One Story, Bon Appétit, MUNCHIES, American Short Fiction, GQ, FADER, The Awl and Catapult. He lives in Houston.

Finalist Christy Lefteri in conversation with Judge Esmeralda Santiago

Brought up in London, Christy Lefteri is the child of Cypriot refugees. She is a lecturer in creative writing at Brunel University. Her novel “The Beekeeper of Aleppo” was born out of her time working as a volunteer at a UNICEF-supported refugee center in Athens. She also is the author of the novel “A Watermelon, a Fish and a Bible.”

Finalist Valeria Luiselli in conversation with Judge Alexander Chee

Valeria Luiselli is the author of the essay collections “Sidewalks” and “Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions,” the novels “Faces in the Crowd,” “The Story of My Teeth,” and most recently, “Lost Children Archive.” She is the winner of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and an American Book Award, and has twice been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kirkus Prize. Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages. She lives in New York City.

Finalist Brian Allen Carr in conversation with Judge Esmeralda Santiago

Brian Allen Carr  is the author of the novels “Opioid, Indiana” and “Sip,” along with several novellas and story collections. Carr is the winner of a Wonderland Book Award and a Texas Observer Story Prize. His short fiction has appeared in Granta, Ninth Letter, Hobart, Boulevard and other publications. He lives in Indiana.

Adrienne Brodeur and Dan Porterfield in conversation on literature, social distancing and the Aspen Words Literary Prize