Winner & Finalists for 2013 Award for Fiction

About the Winner

Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club
(Cinco Puntos Press)

Benjamin Alire Sáenz‘s Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club presents seven stories set on the south Texas border of El Paso and Juárez, examining lives bounded by geography, politics, violence and the echoes of personal history. The titular Kentucky Club, a Juárez institution that sits four blocks from the U.S. border, provides a guiding thread for the collection, acting alternately as backdrop, touchstone, and oasis for a humane set of characters who struggle with the impossible ambiguities of borders whether they be sexual, emotional, national or economic.

Sáenz is an artist, poet, novelist, and a writer of children’s books. He has been awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowhip in poetry, a Lannan Poetry Fellowship, an American Book Award, and has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Among other works, he is the author of Carry Me Like Water, In Perfect LightSammy and Juliana in HollywoodNames On a Map, and Flowers for the Broken. He lives in El Paso, Texas.


About the Finalists

Amelia Gray

(Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

Amelia Gray’s debut novel Threats has been hailed by critics for its clever and disquieting depictions of loss and decay. After his wife Franny dies, David discovers a series of threats hidden away in the nooks and crannies of his home. He finds them on scraps of paper hidden in the reservoir of his coffee pot and wrapped around a small tub of Franny’s eye cream. “I will cross stitch an image of your future home burning. I will hang this image over your bed while you sleep,” reads one threat. “My truth will bring atomic snow upon your sweet smelling lambs and children,” reads another. As David attempts to make sense of his wife’s death, his own emotional and mental stability are called into question, leaving the reader—like David—to wonder what can be trusted when the world seems to be falling apart. Riffing on tropes more frequently found in detective fiction and film noir, Gray’s novel has garnered comparisons to the work of Samuel Beckett and to the films of David Lynch. Publisher’s Weekly lauded the novel, writing “As with any good detective novel, the pieces come together. What would have seemed gimmicky in the hands of a less skilled writer becomes a cunning whodunit with Gray at the reins. This is an innovative debut novel featuring a most unreliable (and compelling) narrator.”

Gray is the author of two previous short collections AM/PM and Museum of the Weird, which won the Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize. She lives in Los Angeles.


Kind One
(Coffee House Press)

The horrors of slavery and the search for redemption are central to Laird Hunt’s novel Kind One. Upon marrying her mother’s second cousin, 14-year-old Ginny Lancaster moves from her Indiana home to her new husband’s Kentucky home where instead of the mansion she expected, she finds herself occupying a rough cabin tended by two young slaves, Cleome and Zinnia. A resonant meditation on the nature of violence, cruelty, and complicity, Kind One was hailed by Kathryn Lang in the Minneapolis Star Tribune as “a mesmerizing novel of sin and expiation that plumbs the depths of human depravity and despair, [that] hints at the possibility of redemption for those ‘life-kicked’ souls who acknowledge their guilt and turn away from the provocation to sin.” A multiple-perspective novel, Kind One has also been lauded in the Oxford American for its authenticity of voice: “It is not easy to write in a Southern voice without succumbing to the pitfalls of condescension or just total ridiculousness, but Hunt handles it exquisitely.”

The author of four previous novels—The Impossibly, The Exquisite, Ray of the Star, and Indiana, Indiana—Hunt work has been published in France, Japan, Italy, Turkey, and Spain. Currently on faculty in the University of Denver’s Creative Writing Program, where he edits the Denver Quarterly, he and his wife, the poet Eleni Sikelianos, live in Boulder, Colorado, with their daughter, Eva Grace.


T. Geronimo JohnsonT. GERONIMO JOHNSON
Hold it ‘Til It Hurts 
(Coffee House Press)

T. Geronimo Johnson’s debut novel Hold It ’Til It Hurts is a contemporary odyssey that explores themes of fealty, class and race, even while telling the nail-biting story of a man in search of his lost brother. Achilles and Troy are the adopted sons of white parents who return to the U.S. following a tour of duty in Afghanistan only to learn that their father has died. After their mother presents each man with an envelope containing information about his biological parents, Troy abruptly leaves for New Orleans. Achilles attempts to follow, and spends months on the road, tracking his brother through Army connections, hospitals and shelters. It is a harrowing journey set against the backdrop of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, Chitra Divakaruni called Hold It ’Til It Hurts “a novel that defies categorization. It is at once a mystery, a meditation, a modern-day myth, an indictment of war and an ode to love. But this much is clear: This masterfully written book, filled with trenchant observations and unafraid of tenderness, marks Johnson as a writer to watch.”

A New Orleans native, Johnson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and has been a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Best New American Voices, Indiana Review, LA Review and elsewhere. He teaches writing at University of California-Berkley.



Thomas Mallon’s Watergate deftly reimagines the events and characters surrounding the Watergate scandal with extraordinary vividness and depth. Through the eyes of seven different narrators, many who occupy minor roles in the annals of most histories, Mallon breathes new life into what many might consider common American knowledge. Woodward and Bernstein are a side note, while Alice Roosevelt Longworth—the elderly, razor-sharp daughter of Theodore Roosevelt—moves to the fore. Included on the New York Times’ list of 100 Notable Books of 2012, Janet Maslin praised the novel as a “stealth bull’s-eye of a political novel” with “the name-dropping panache of a Hollywood tell-all.” The Washington Post’s book critic Ron Charles has praised the novel for its expansive detail, writing “Mallon entices us back to those frenzied preInternet days of the Dictabelt, the smoking gun, the hush money, the Saturday Night Massacre, the Enemies List, Deep Throat, CREEP and ‘expletive deleted’ —the whole, labyrinthine episode that newly sworn-in President Gerald Ford too expansively characterized as ‘an American tragedy in which we all have played a part.’”

A longtime resident of Washington, DC, Thomas Mallon is the author of eight novels, including Henry and Clara, Dewey Defeats Truman, and Fellow Travelers, and seven works of nonfiction. He currently directs the Creative Writing program at The George Washington University.


Listen to the Podcast

PEN/Faulkner Podcast LogoThe 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Ceremony & Reading was recorded and produced as an episode of the PEN/Faulkner Podcast. You can listen to this episode and others on the Podcast Page.

You can also  Subscribe to the Podcast in iTunes.

About the 33rd Annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Celebrating the winner as “first among equals,” the 33rd Annual PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony took place at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC on Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 7 pm. The event featured the judges’ citations for each finalist’s book, the conferral of the PEN/Faulkner Award, and a reading by each author. To read the original press release, which includes additional information about the 2013 judges, winner, and finalists click here.  You can find a list of past winners and finalists of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction here.

PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction - logo and text

Author Photo Credits: Amelia Gray (Matt Chamberlain); T. Geronimo Johnson (Elizabeth Cowan); Thomas Mallon (William Bodenschatz)

Congratulations 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award Finalists!

Threats book jacketKind One book jacketHold it 'Til It Hurts book jacketWatergate book jacketEverything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club book jacket

2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Judges Walter Kirn, Nelly Rosario, and A.J. Verdelle have announced their list of five finalists for the this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The winner will be announced on March 19th, and the 33rd Annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Ceremony & Dinner will be held on Saturday, May 4th at 7 p.m. at the Folger Shakespeare Library. 

More information about this year’s finalists and their work can be found on our Award for Fiction page

Congratulations to all of our finalists!

Amelia Gray, author of Threats (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

Laird Hunt, author of Kind One (Coffee House Press)

T. Geronimo Johnson, author of Hold it ‘Til It Hurts (Coffee House Press)

Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate (Pantheon)

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, author of Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club (Cinco Puntos Press)

Winner & Finalists for 2012 Award for Fiction

About the Winner

The Buddha in the Attic

Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic is a precise, poetic novel that tells the story of Japanese picture brides brought to California from Japan in the early twentieth century. In a series of eight slim, self-contained chapters, Otsuka crafts a first-person plural voice described as “incantatory” in The New York Times. This collective voice is borne out of a harsh boat trip that binds the women to one another in both experience and expectation, creating a shared identity for those who are soon to be exquisitely alone in a new world. Upon arrival in California, these women meet husbands who are strangers, begin to bear children who are American, and are eventually forced into internment camps. Otsuka’s evocation of the shared experience of emotional and cultural isolation creates what The San Francisco Chronicle describes as “an understated masterpiece about our treatment of the ‘other,’ the distillation of a national tragedy that unfolds with great emotional power.”

Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. In addition to The Buddha in the Attic, Otsuka is the author of the novel When the Emperor Was Divine and a recipient of the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in New York City.


About the Finalists

Lost Memory of Skin

Russell Banks’s Lost Memory of Skin traces the rich, heartbreaking turns in the life of a convicted sex offender known only as the “The Kid.” Released from a prison sentence for an online tryst with an underage girl that went too far, The Kid falls in with an encampment of other sex offenders who live beneath a south Florida highway underpass. This changes when he meets “The Professor,” a genius sociologist who recruits him for research. It’s a rich, often disturbing narrative that The Washington Post’s Sue Miller says shows off Banks’s “greatest gifts,” like “his ability to write about large issues — historic, cultural, socioeconomic — while presenting the particular dilemmas and failings of sharply drawn characters.”

Russell Banks’s novels and short story collections include The Sweet HereafterCloudsplitterRule of the Bone, and Affliction. He has contributed poems, stories, and essays to Vanity FairThe New York Times Book ReviewEsquireHarper’s, and numerous others. Banks’s awards include the John Dos Passos Award and the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Continental Drift and Cloudsplitter were Pulitzer Prize finalists; Affliction and Cloudsplitter were PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Finalists. Banks is the founder and President of Cities of Refuge North America. In 2011 the French Minister of Culture awarded Banks the rank of Officier des Arts et Lettres.


The Angel Esmerelda: Nine Stories

Don DeLillo’s The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories chronicles (and foretells) three decades of American life. Set in Greece, the Caribbean, Manhattan, a white-collar prison, and outer space, these stories represent DeLillo at his finest. In the title story, Sisters Edgar and Grace, nuns working the violent streets of the South Bronx, confirm the neighborhood’s miracle, the apparition of a dead child, Esmeralda. Writing in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani described the story as “a dazzlingly told tale of despair and ruination, the dream of redemption and the testing of faith…the tale not only uses Mr. DeLillo’s electric gifts of language, but is also one of his rare, deeply emotional forays into the human heart.”

Don DeLillo is the author of fifteen novels, including Falling ManPoint OmegaLibra, and White Noise, and three plays. He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and the Jerusalem Prize. In 2006, his masterpiece Underworld was named one of the three best novels of the last twenty-five years by The New York Times Book Review, and in 2000 it won the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the most distinguished work of fiction of the past five years.



The Artist of Disappearance
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In the three novellas that comprise The Artist of Disappearance, author Anita Desai confronts art’s sometimes incongruous place in a rapidly changing, modern world. Set in three areas of India, Desai’s protagonists are suspended, haunted by their past failings and paralyzed by the restricted roles they feel forced to play. In “The Museum of Final Journeys,” a government official looks back on his first appointment as a junior officer in a far-flung, rural province, where he is asked by the overseer of a large estate for help in cataloging and restoring a collection of Asian antiquities. In “Translator Translated,” Prema Joshi, a frustrated literature professor, tests the boundary between writer and translator as she translates a novel by her favorite author from a rural dialect into English. The titular novella follows Ravi, the discarded son of wealthy, adoptive parents as he clings to the remains of his family’s estate and strives to create a secret garden where he can be alone with nature. “In changing India, where deep-rooted tradition meets the great, cruel engine of unbridled capitalism, stories of loss, beauty and hurt abound,” writes Hector Tobar for The Los Angeles Times.

Born and educated in India, Anita Desai is the award-winning author of over a dozen novels and collections, including Baumgartner’s BombayClear Light of DayFasting, Feasting and The Zigzag Way.


We Others: New and Selected Stories

Praised by the Guardian UK’s Patrick Ness as “mammoth” and “beguiling,” Steven Millhauser’s collection We Others: New and Selected Stories pulls together thirty of Millhauser’s unique, ambitious short stories from the last thirty years, with settings that range from a museum of oddities (“The Barnum Museum”) to Thomas Edison’s laboratory (“The Wizard of West Orange”). A magical realist who has been compared to Kafka and Borges, The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda writes of Millhauser’s work that it “illustrates the very definition of the uncanny—that moment when the homey or familiar suddenly swerves into something rich, strange and menacing.”

Steven Millhauser is the author of twelve works of fiction, including Edwin MullhouseDangerous Laughter (stories), and Martin Dressler, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1997. His most recent collection, We Others, contains seven new and fourteen selected stories, written over the past thirty years. His work has been translated into fifteen languages.


Listen to the Podcast

PEN/Faulkner Podcast LogoThe 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Ceremony & Reading was recorded and produced as an episode of the PEN/Faulkner Podcast. You can listen to this episode and others on the Podcast Page.

You can also  Subscribe to the Podcast in iTunes.


About the 32nd Annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Celebrating the winner as “first among equals,” all five authors were honored during the 32nd Annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library, located at 201 East Capitol Street, SE on Saturday, May 5, at 7 pm. You can find a list of past winners and finalists of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction here.


Past Award Winners & Finalists

Karen Joy Fowler_with Medallion2014 – Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Daniel Alarcón, At Night We Walk In Circles
Percival Everett, Percival Everett by Virgil Russell
Joan Silber, Fools
Valerie Trueblood, Search Party: Stories of Rescue

Sáenz_Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club2013 – Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club

Amelia Gray, Threats
Laird Hunt, Kind One
T. Geronimo Johnson, Hold It ‘Til It Hurts
Thomas Mallon, Watergate

2012 – Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic

Russell Banks, Lost Memory of Skin
Don DeLillo, The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories
Anita Desai, The Artist of Disappearance
Steven Millhauser, We Others: New and Selected Stories

2011 – Deborah Eisenberg,
The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg

Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Good Squad
Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule
Eric Puchner, Model Home
Brad Watson, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives

2010 – Sherman Alexie, War Dances

Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna
Lorraine Lopéz, Homicide Survivors Picnic
Lorrie Moore, A Gate at the Stairs
Colson Whitehead, Sag Harbor

2009 – Joseph O’Neill, Netherland

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Ms. Hempel Chronicles 
Susan Choi, A Person of Interest 
Richard Price, Lush Life 
Ron Rash, Serena

2008 – Kate Christensen, The Great Man

Annie Dillard, The Maytrees
David Leavitt, The Indian Clerk
T.M. McNally, The Gateway: Stories
Ron Rash, Chemistry and Other Stories

2007 – Philip Roth, Everyman

Charles D’Ambrosio, The Dead Fish Museum
Deborah Eisenberg, Twilight of the Superheroes
Amy Hempel, The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
Edward P. Jones, All Aunt Hagar’s Children

2006 – E.L. Doctorow, The March

Karen Fisher, A Sudden Country
William Henry Lewis, I Got Somebody in Staunton
James Salter, Last Night
Bruce Wagner, The Chrysanthemum Place

2005 – Ha Jin, War Trash

Jerome Charyn, The Green Lantern
Edwidge Danticat, The Dew Breaker

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
Steve Yarbrough, Prisoners of War

2004 – John Updike, The Early Stories 1953–1975

Frederick Barthelme, Elroy Nights
ZZ Packer, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Caryl Phillips, A Distant Shore
Tobias Wolff, Old School

2003 – Sabina Murray, The Caprices

Peter Cameron, The City of Your Final Destination
William Kennedy, Roscoe
Victor LaValle, The Ecstatic
Gilbert Sorrentino, Little Casino

2002 – Ann Patchett, Bel Canto

Karen Joy Fowler, Sister Noon
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
Claire Messud, The Hunters
Manil Suri, The Death of Vishnu

2001 – Philip Roth, The Human Stain

Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Millicent Dillon, Harry Gold
Denis Johnson, The Name of the World
Mona Simpson, Off Keck Road

2000 – Ha Jin, Waiting

Frederick Busch, The Night Inspector
Ken Kalfus, Pu-239 And Other Russian Fantasies
Elizabeth Strout, Amy and Isabelle
Lily Tuck, Siam, or the Woman Who Shot a Man

1999 – Michael Cunningham, The Hours

Russell Banks, Cloudsplitter
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
Brian Morton, Starting Out in the Evening
Richard Selzer, The Doctor Stories

1998 – Rafi Zabor, The Bear Comes Home

Donald Antrim, The Hundred Brothers
Rilla Askew, The Mercy Seat
Mary Gaitskill, Because They Wanted To
Francisco Goldman, The Ordinary Seaman

1997 – Gina Berriault, Women in their Beds

Daniel Akst, St. Burl’s Obituary
Kathleen Cambor, The Book of Mercy
Ron Hansen, Atticus
Jamaica Kincaid, The Autobiography of My Mother

1996 – Richard Ford, Independence Day

Madison Smart Bell, All Souls’ Rising
William Gass, The Tunnel
Claire Messud, When the World Was Steady
A.J. Verdelle, The Good Negress

1995 – David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars 

Frederich Busch, The Children in the Woods
Ursula Hegi, Stones from the River
Joyce Carol Oates, What I Lived For
Joanna Scott, Various Antidotes

1994 – Philip Roth, Operation Shylock 

Stanley Elkin, Van Gogh’s Room at Arles
Dagoberto Gilb, The Magic of Blood
Fae Myenne Ng, Bone
Kate Wheeler, Not Where I Started From

1993 – E. Annie Proulx, Postcards 

Robert Olen Butler, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
Francisco Goldman, The Long Night of White Chickens
Maureen Howard, Natural History
Sylvia Watanabe, Talking to the Dead

1992 – Don DeLillo, Mao II 

Stephen Dixon, Frog
Paul Gervais, Extraordinary People
Allan Gurganus, White People
Bradford Morrow, The Almanac Branch

1991 – John Edgar Wideman, Philadelphia Fire 

Paul Auster, The Music of Chance
Joanne Meschery, A Gentleman”s Guide to the Frontier
Steven Millhauser, The Barnum Museum
Joanna Scott, Arrogance

1990 – E.L. Doctorow, Billy Bathgate 

Russell Banks, Affliction
Molly Gloss, The Jump-Off Creek
Josephine Jacobsen, On the Island
Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Leaving Brooklyn

1989 – James Salter, Dusk 

Mary McGarry Morris,Vanished
Thomas Savage, The Corner of Rife and Pacific
Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Death of Methuselah

1988 – T. Coraghessan Boyle, World’s End 

Richard Bausch, Spirits
Alice McDermott, That Night
Cynthia Ozick, The Messiah of Stockholm
Lawrence Thornton, Imagining Argentina

1987 – Richard Wiley, Soldiers in Hiding  

Richard Ford, The Sportswriter
Charles Johnson, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Janet Kauffman, Collaborators
Maureen Howard, Expensive Habits

1986 – Peter Taylor, The Old Forest and Other Stories 

William Gaddis, Carpenter’s Gothic
Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove
Hugh Nissenson, The Tree of Life
Helen Norris, The Christmas Wife
Grace Paley, Later the Same Day

1985 – Tobias Wolff, The Barracks Thief 

Harriet Doerr, Stones for Ibarra
Donald Hays, The Dixie Association
David Leavitt, Family Dancing
James Purdy, On Glory’s Courses

1984 – John Edgar Wideman, Sent for You Yesterday  

Ron Hansen, The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
William Kennedy, Ironweed
Jamaica Kincaid, At the Bottom of the River
Bernard Malamud, The Stories
Cynthia Ozick, The Cannibal Galaxy

1983 – Toby Olson, Seaview  

Maureen Howard, Grace Abounding
Bobbie Ann Mason, Shiloh and Other Stories
George Steiner, The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.
Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
William S. Wilson, Birthplace

1982 – David Bradley, The Chaneysville Incident

Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
Richard Bausch, Take Me Back
Mark Helprin, Ellis Island and Other Stories
Marilynne Robinson,Housekeeping
Robert Stone, A Flag for Sunrise

1981 – Walter Abish, How German Is It?

Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus
Walker Percy, The Second Coming
Gilbert Sorrentino, Aberration of Starlight
John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces