Ross Gay, Asako Serizawa, and Kawai Strong Washburn are among the winners of PEN America’s annual literary awards, announced Thursday evening at a virtual ceremony.
Gay won the $75,000 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, given to a groundbreaking book of any genre, for Be Holding: A Poem. In his acceptance speech, he spoke of the need to understand “that we are made of each other.”
“I mean the trees,” he said. “And I mean the microbes. And I mean the breeze. And I mean the light that will go across the wall. I mean that we are made of each other.”
Serizawa took home the $10,000 PEN Open Book Award, which honors an outstanding book by an author of color, for her short story collection, Inheritors. The judges praised the book as “nothing short of remarkable.”
Washburn won the $10,000 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel for his Sharks in the Time of Saviors; the book was also a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein prize.
Barbara Ehrenreich took home the $15,000 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for her collection Had I Known.
Two books that previously won National Book Critics Circle Awards won PEN America Prizes: Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals won the $10,000 PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction, and Amy Stanley’s Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World won the $5,000 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.
A full list of winners is available on PEN America’s website.
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.