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Exclusive: 'Nickel Boys,' 'Other Americans' Among Nominees For Aspen Words Prize

The writer who wins next year's Aspen Words Literary Prize will join Tayari Jones and Mohsin Hamid on the list of winners of the young award.<em></em>
Erin Baiano
The writer who wins next year's Aspen Words Literary Prize will join Tayari Jones and Mohsin Hamid on the list of winners of the young award.

Take a quick scan of the 16 nominees for next year's Aspen Words Literary Prize, and you're likely to find that their dust jackets boast the stuff of international headlines. And that's the point: The annual award, which revealed its longlist Thursday, is intended to honor fiction that doesn't shy from the weightiest, thorniest of social issues today.

(You can jump to the full list by heading to Aspen's website or clicking here.)

"Fiction can help bridge divides across political, racial and socioeconomic lines," says Adrienne Brodeur, executive director of Aspen Words, the nonprofit literary organization that hands out the prize in partnership with NPR.

"This year's longlist includes titles that grapple with many of our biggest contemporary challenges — racial injustice, family separation and immigration, opioid addiction," she adds in a statement shared with NPR. "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."

A selection committee whittled the nominees for the $35,000 prize from 163 possible books. From here, a five-person jury will narrow the list to just five finalists, to be announced on Feb. 19, 2020, and will decide on a winner whose name will be revealed at a ceremony in New York City on April 16.

The winner of the third annual Aspen Words Literary Prize will join Tayari Jones, whose novel An American Marriage won the 2019 award, and Mohsin Hamid, whose Exit West won in 2018.

Aspen Words Literary Prize Longlist

  • Opioid, Indiana
    Brian Allen Carr
  • Your House Will Pay
    Steph Cha
  • Dominicana
    Angie Cruz
  • Patsy
    Nicole Dennis-Benn
  • Sabrina & Corina: Stories
    Kali Fajardo-Anstine
  • The Other Americans
    Laila Lalami
  • The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    Christy Lefteri
  • Lost Children Archive
    Valeria Luiselli
  • The Beadworkers: Stories
    Beth Piatote
  • The Affairs of the Falcóns
    Melissa Rivero
  • We Cast a Shadow
    Maurice Carlos Ruffin
  • The World Doesn't Require You: Stories
    Rion Amilcar Scott
  • On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
    Ocean Vuong
  • Lot: Stories
    Bryan Washington
  • The Nickel Boys
    Colson Whitehead
  • Red at the Bone
    Jacqueline Woodson
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.

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