- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) - Colson Whitehead, winner of the National Book Award for his novel “The Underground Railroad,” is a finalist for a new $75,000 prize given by the literary and human rights organization PEN America.

Whitehead’s story of a young runaway slave is among five nominees for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, PEN told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Other finalists include Jane Mayer for “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” Teju Cole for “Known and Strange Things,” poet Tyehimba Jess for “Olio” and Hisham Matar for “The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between.”

The Stein award is given for “a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact.”

PEN also announced finalists in nine other competitive categories, from best science and sports writing to the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for best debut fiction, with nominees including Brit Bennett’s “The Mothers,” Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing,” Cote Smith’s “Hurt People,” Rion Amilcar Scott’s “Insurrections” and Clare Beams’ “We Show What We Have Learned & Other Stories.”

“The PEN America literary awards recognize writing that interprets the world for us,” the author and PEN America President Andrew Solomon said in a statement. “Rarely has this aim felt more urgent than it does in this political and politicized moment. In honoring the finalists today, we are reaffirming the power of literature to sustain truth in a post-truth world, to uphold moral discourse, and to articulate humanist values that transcend exploitative, anti-intellectual populism.”

Cole became the first writer in the 54-year history of the PEN awards to be nominated in two categories. His book is also a finalist for the $10,000 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, with other nominees including Siri Hustvedt for “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women,” Belle Boggs’ “The Art of Waiting,” Angela Morales for “The Girls in My Town” and Eva Saulitis for “Becoming Earth.”

For the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for nonfiction, a $10,000 honor, the finalists were Matthew Desmond for “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” Patrick Phillips for “Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America,” Sam Quinones for “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” Laura Secor for “Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran” and Anjan Sundaram for “Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship.”

The Stein and Bingham awards are among those to be announced March 27. Others will be announced Feb. 22.




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