Yesterday, PEN America announced the shortlists for the 2016 PEN Literary Awards. PEN confers over $200,000 to authors writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, biography, essays, translation, and more.
The PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000) is awarded to an author “whose debut work—published in 2015—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.”
The shortlist has five titles:
In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar
These nine stories give voice to the women and men of the Filipino diaspora. Here are exiles, emigrants, and wanderers uprooting their families from the Philippines to begin new lives in the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere.
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit’s East Side, and the loss of a father. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children are called home to decide its fate and to reckon with how each of their pasts haunts—and shapes—their family’s future.
Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya
Ifi and Job, a Nigerian couple in an arranged marriage, begin their lives together in Nebraska with a single, outrageous lie: that Job is a doctor, not a college dropout. Unwittingly, Ifi becomes his co-conspirator until his first wife, Cheryl, whom he married for a green card years ago, re-enters the picture and upsets Job's tenuous balancing act.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause.
Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng
Forty-one years old, disenchanted wife and dutiful mother, Mayumi’s work as a librarian on a small island off the coast of New England feeds her passion for reading and provides her with many occasions for wry observations on human nature, but it does little to remedy the mundanity of her days. That is, until the day she issues a library card to a shy seventeen-year-old boy and swiftly succumbs to a sexual obsession that subverts the way she sees the library, her family, the island she lives on, and ultimately herself.