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(New York, NY) – Today PEN America announced “Late Night” host, comedian, and “influential recommender of books” (The New York Times) Seth Meyers as host of the 2020 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony, honoring exceptional works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, biography, essay, science writing, translation, and more published in 2019. The ceremony will be held March 2 at The Town Hall, the largest venue in the history of the Literary Awards, with a master of ceremonies who uses his platform to put literature center-stage. Meyers has elevated the work of past PEN America honorees, including 2019 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award-winner Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Friday Black). PEN America today also shared the Finalists for the 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, honoring a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact, and conferring a prize of $75,000 to its author.

In recent years, the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony has evolved from an auditorium event for winners and their families into a preeminent gathering of the city’s writing and publishing luminaries and passionate book lovers, who unite to celebrate diverse voices and to catapult new writers to prominence. The ceremony encompasses winner announcements, live music, dramatic readings from selected award-winning works, and a moving In Memoriam segment, which recognizes the literary greats lost over the last year. Recent ceremony participants and attendees include Hari Kondabolu, Matthew Broderick, Candace Bergen, Lorne Michaels, Diane Sawyer, and Steve Martin.

Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf, PEN America Director of Literary Programs, said, “The PEN America Literary Awards work to elevate original and promising voices and build a literary canon fit for the 21st century. From our selection of judges to our national outreach and engagement with small presses, we are determined to bring to the surface essential perspectives that widen the gates of the literary community, broadening our understanding of literature as a catalyst for social change and bridge across societal divides. We are proud to honor writers whose work is redefining the contours of public conversation.”

PEN America President Jennifer Egan said, “The 2020 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony is the embodiment of our core mission: to foster and celebrate literary culture by bringing a multiplicity of excellent writers to the widest possible audience. This year, as we expand to The Town Hall’s iconic stage and welcome as host Seth Meyers, a beloved champion of literature, we’re propelled by our deep conviction that writing—across borders, languages, cultures, genres, and subjects—has the power to sharpen minds, awaken empathy, and to shape and elevate public discourse.”

The PEN America Literary Awards have, since their founding in 1963, brought together award-winning writers, editors, translators, and critics in dynamic and diverse panels of judges that determine the given year’s most resonant literature. In their selection of Finalists, the 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award judging panel—Marilyn Chin, Garth Greenwell, Rebecca Makkai, Michael Schaub, and William T. Vollmann—have elevated works that have reshaped the boundaries of form and signaled strong potential for lasting literary influence. The 2020 Finalists include Anne Boyer for The Undying (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Yiyun Li for Where Reasons End (Random House), Ilya Kaminsky for Deaf Republic: Poems (Graywolf Press), Rion Amilcar Scott for The World Doesn’t Require You (Liveright), and Chris Ware for Rusty Brown (Pantheon). The 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award winner will be announced live at the March 2 ceremony. PEN America has also released Longlists for other 2020 Literary Awards, which can be found here.

Over the decades, the PEN America Literary Awards have expanded across genres, celebrating a wide range of writing and recognizing writers at every stage of their careers. The PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel, and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection honor emerging and debut talent. The PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants, PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History, and PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship support the development of promising works in progress. The PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award – Mid-Career American Playwright boosts the work of playwrights at a crucial moment in their creative output. PEN America also confers Career Achievement Awards, including the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, the PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award, and the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. Past winners of these Career Achievement Awards include Sandra Cisneros, Kenneth Lonergan, and Tarell Alvin McCraney, among others.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Press Contacts

For more information, please contact Blake Zidell or Adriana Leshko at Blake Zidell & Associates, 718.643.9052, [email protected] or [email protected]