Judges have selected the five finalists for the 2023 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America’s most prestigious peer-juried literary prize. The finalists are If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery (MCD), Fruiting Bodies by Kathryn Harlan (Norton), The Islands by Dionne Irving (Catapult), The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), and Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell (Pantheon).
“With settings that range from Jamaica to Boston to postwar France to realms of the uncanny, this year’s finalists manage to make even familiar worlds feel mysteriously new,” said PEN/Faulkner Awards Committee Chair Louis Bayard. “Whether writing in the long or short form, they offer us the gift of deeply examined humanity, as well as definitive evidence that American fiction has lost none of its power to enchant and illuminate.”
This year’s judges—Christopher Bollen, R.O. Kwon, and Tiphanie Yanique—considered 512 eligible novels and short story collections by American authors published in the US during the 2022 calendar year. Submissions came from 205 publishing houses, including independent and academic presses.
Bollen, Kwon, and Yanique prepared the following statement: “Monstrosity, resilience, terror, pleasure, joy, peace, and wisdom. These aspects of human experience come alive in the novels and short-story collections on our shortlist. They are written with incredible emotional complexity and pressing historical urgency, and each offers a path forward for fiction in this country and beyond. Our selections display brilliant technical skill in charting the complexities of mind, body and society. And they deftly bring to life their characters’ beating hearts. The books are primers on how good writing is made.”
The “first among equals” winner, who will receive $15,000, will be announced in early April. The remaining four finalists will each receive an honorarium of $5,000. All five authors—along with this year’s PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion—will be honored on May 11 at the 43rd Anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award Celebration, to be held at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial Library in Washington, DC. More information about the event is available at www.penfaulkner.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jonathan Escoffery is the recipient of the 2020 Plimpton Prize for Fiction, a 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and the 2020 ASME Award for Fiction. His fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, American Short Fiction, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, Passages North, Zyzzyva, and Electric Literature, and has been anthologized in The Best American Magazine Writing. He is a fellow in the University of Southern California’s PhD in Creative Writing and Literature Program, and in 2021 he was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. He was raised in Miami, Florida. If I Survive You is his first book.
Kathryn Harlan received an MFA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she now teaches writing. She was the recipient of the 2019 August Derleth Graduate Creative Writing Prize. Her work has appeared in the Gettysburg Review, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere.
Dionne Irving is originally from Toronto, Ontario. She is the author of THE ISLANDS (Catapult) and QUINT (7.13 Books). She currently teaches in the Creative Writing Program and the Initiative on Race and Resilience at the University of Notre Dame.
Yiyun Li is the author of several works of fiction—Must I Go, Where Reasons End, Kinder Than Solitude, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, The Vagrants, and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl—and the memoir Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. She is the recipient of many awards, including the PEN/Malamud Award, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Windham-Campbell Prize. Her work has also appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, The Best American Short Stories, and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, among other publications. She teaches at Princeton University.
Laura Warrell is a contributor to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, and is a graduate of the creative writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in HuffPost, The Rumpus, and Los Angeles Review of Books, among other publications. She has taught creative writing and literature at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and through the Emerging Voices Program at PEN America in Los Angeles, where she lives.