PEN/Faulkner Finalists Announced

The PEN America Center offers so many awards that they can begin to blur, especially since many of the finalists have already appeared on end-of-the year best books lists, or have won other major national awards.

The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction shortlist offers two correctives this year, bringing attention to a pair of titles that have slipped under most radars.

9780062410344_1107f9781566893978_87fbcDespite glowing praise in the NYT comparing her work to George Eliot, Elizabeth Tallent’s short story collection, Mendocino Fire (Harper, Sept. 2015), received scant additional attention. The same holds for Julie Iromuanya’s debut novel, Mr. and Mrs. Doctor (Coffee House Press, May 2015), which received little notice beyond a mention in the NYT Sunday Book Review’s debut title round-up. As previously announced, it is also a finalist for the PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction.

The other PEN/Faulkner finalists fared better in the PR stakes.

9780316334372_fcd61Luis Alberto Urrea’s short story collection The Water Museum (Hachette/Little, Brown. April 2015) was on both the Washington Post ‘s and NPR’s best of the year lists. Urrea is well-known for his many other works, including Into the Beautiful North, one of 34 titles on NEA’s Big Read list. Showing particular relevance to today’s political discussions, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer says, The Water Museum “mines the tragedy, the dark comedy and the ultimate futility of erecting walls between cultures.”

9780316284943_96ec59780802123459_c9befThe other two books on the short list are true literary darlings. James Hannaham’s Delicious Foods (Hachette/Little, Brown, March 2015) and The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press, April 2015).

Both won major awards, or were on award short lists, and were on many end-of-year “best” lists. Showing remarkable range, The Sympathizer, called a “cerebral thriller about Vietnam and its aftermath” by the Washington Post, is also a nominee for a 2016 Edgar for Best First Novel as well as on the shortlist for the PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Earlier this year, it won ALA’s Carnegie Medal for Fiction.

The winners of the PEN/Faulkner Awards will be announced on April 5th.

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