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2019 PEN America Literary Awards Winners: Nomination Awards

headshots of the 2019 Career Lifetime Achievement Honorees

In addition to PEN America’s book awards, which celebrate the best books published in a given year, PEN America also honors the outstanding careers and lifetime contributions to the world of literature and drama of our era, as well as the promise of emerging talents. In 2019 we honor achievement in international literature, editing, literary sports writing, and drama, and literary promise in poetry. Note: The following awards are by nomination only, and there are no finalists.

Honorees will be celebrated at the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on February 26, 2019, in NYC. Purchase tickets >>


Sandra Cisneros

PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature
The award will be conferred annually to a living author whose body of work, either written in or translated into English, represents the highest level of achievement in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and/or drama, and is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship.
JUDGES: Alexander Chee, Edwidge Danticat, Valeria Luiselli

From the judges: “Sandra Cisneros has said that she writes because ‘the world we live in is a house on fire and the people we love are burning.’ In a formidable and awe-inspiring body of work, which includes fiction, memoir, and poetry, Cisneros brings us astounding and lyrical voices from burning, maligned, devastated, as well as reassembled houses, and nations. It’s hard to imagine navigating our world today without her stories and her voice guiding us towards needed much reclamation and endurance.”

Purchase Tickets to the Ceremony >>


Larissa FastHorse

PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award 
To a playwright working at the highest level of achievement in mid-career. 
JUDGES: Craig Lucas, Jacob G. Padron, Condola Rashad

From the judges:Larissa FastHorse is prolific not only in her work—17 plays in a little over a decade—but in the ways in which she explores the human condition. She digs into intercultural rifts within and outside family, employing dance and song and myth and history. She writes for children and adults, calling on a spirit of public discussion with a Chekhovian-sized empathy. The human comedy is everywhere in her stories, side by side with a jaundiced eye about class and our great national shortfall set against our founding ideals. The genocidal history of the U.S. government is never far from her sights, and there is no certainty that the malignancy lingering there is far from done with us. FastHorse educates, tweaks, embraces, outrages and dances, sometimes all in a single scene. Some of her plays (like Hunka) obey Aristotelean unities and could happily live in any commercial venue like Broadway or the West End while others (A Cherokee Family Reunion, for instance) call for the intimacy and understanding of a community-driven theater. She is an exceptional playwright and deserves to be much more widely known.



Alexandra Watson, Apogee Journal

PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing
To a magazine editor whose high literary standards and taste have, throughout his or her career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication he or she edits.
JUDGES: Mark Doten, Kima Jones, Daniel A. Olivas

For Watson’s high literary stewardship as the editor of Apogee, a journal of literature and art, foregrounding writers of color and engaging with issues of race, gender, and class, including Apogee‘s “Alternate Canon” series.

From the judges: “There are many journals and their editors who deserve recognition for the tireless and often unpaid work of running a nonprofit literary outfit. We could’ve named other, equally admirable, journals for this award but Alexandra Watson has demonstrated that within the pages of Apogee there is no room for timidity. From the life of Sandra Bland to migrant reamaginings, through visual art and poetry and prose, Alexandra Watson captures and curates around the concerns of her generation. Apogee is a lionhearted enterprise, one that deserves our full critical attention, and all of the resources that we can afford it.”



Jackie MacMullan

Jackie "Mac" MacMullan

PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing 
To a living sports writer for their literary merit and dedication to sports writing with keen knowledge, insight, and a literary voice. 
JUDGES: Chris Bachelder, Rafi Kohan, Carvell Wallace

For the high literary quality of her sportswriting, her exemplary use of the oral history form, and her body of work including Basketball: A Love Story (2018), When the Game Was Ours (2013; with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson), Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection (2006), and her many years as a newspaper sportswriter and NBA columnist. She is the first female sportswriter to win the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing.

From the judges:Since joining the Boston Globe as a sports writer at the age of 22, Jackie MacMullan has been one of the most respected and prolific journalists in the country. She established herself as a beat reporter for the Boston Celtics at a time when women were even more rare in the field than they are today and through her meticulous knowledge of the game, clear-headedness and honesty she was able to not only make a lane for herself but gain the respect and trust of the game’s biggest names. The result was first a deluge of sharp and agile columns covering everything from trade rumors to player profiles, to the details of specific plays, and then a series of books based on her unique ability to gather oral histories – The memoirs of Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, Geno Auriemma, as well as the 2009 New York Times bestseller When The Game Was Ours with Bird and Magic Johnson. Her 2018 epic, Basketball: A Love Story – written alongside Rafe Bartholemew – drew upon nearly a thousand hours of interviews to create a deeply literary, profoundly intimate book that may well be one of the most ambitious and definitive  ever written about the game.”


Jonah Mixon-Webster

PEN/Osterweil Award for Poetry
To a poet whose distinguished and growing body of work represents a notable and accomplished presence in American literature.
JUDGES: Daniel Borzutzky, Ilya Kaminsky, Airea D. Matthews 

For the high literary character of his debut collection, Stereo(TYPE), which explores the intersection of space and body, race and region, and sexuality and class; and wrestles with the ongoing crisis in Flint, MI.

From the judges:Jonah Mixon-Webster’s Stereo(TYPE) is vibrant. It’s full of life. It’s a book that shows us how to approach a violent nation, how to approach a racist nation, how to write a poetry that is intricately engaged with the trauma of the public sphere. Stereo(TYPE) is performative, formally innovative, visually innovative as it captures our national epidemics of racial violence and ecoviolence. Written as prose poems, as invocations, in unconventional typographies, in dialogic plays, as Frequently Asked Questions, as government brochures and concrete poems, Stereo(TYPE)’s depth and bravery reverberates from each breath, each word, each page.”