Judges have selected the five finalists for the 2024 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America’s most prestigious peer-juried literary prize. The finalists are Witness by Jamel Brinkley (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Open Throat by Henry Hoke (MCD), What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jiménez (Grand Central), Absolution by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and Users by Colin Winnette (Soft Skull).

“With an astonishingly varied range of protagonists—the ghosts of New York City, U.S. military wives in wartime Saigon, Staten Island Latinas, a virtual reality designer, and a mountain lion living under the Hollywood sign—this year’s finalists offer definitive proof that fiction, to invoke Walt Whitman, contains multitudes,” said PEN/Faulkner Awards Committee chair Louis Bayard. “We can’t wait to celebrate these gifted authors and their unique contributions to our art form.”

This year’s judges—Xochitl Gonzalez, Alan Michael Parker, and Lynn Steger Strong—considered 445 eligible novels and short story collections by American authors published in the US during the 2023 calendar year. Submissions came from 183 publishing houses, including independent and academic presses. 

Gonzalez, Parker, and Strong prepared the following statement: “In addition to spectacular craft and exquisite prose, what captivated us about each of these books was their humanity, empathy, and deep insight into what it means to be alive in this particular moment. They not only mirror the world back to us, they offer new ways of seeing, new ways of wondering about what else life and art might be. Noteworthy, too, is the pleasure of each: immersive and transporting, these books offered worlds, characters, and stories we still yearned for long after we’d turned the last page.”

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 2 at the 44th Anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award Celebration, to be held at the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial Library in Washington, DC. 


Jamel Brinkley is the author of A Lucky Man, which won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and was a finalist for the National Book Award, the John Leonard Prize, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. His work has appeared in The Paris ReviewA Public SpacePloughshares, and The Best American Short Stories. He was raised in the Bronx and Brooklyn and currently teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Henry Hoke is an editor at The Offing and a writer whose work has appeared in No Tokens, Triangle House, Electric Literature, and the flash noir anthology Tiny Crimes. He co-created the performance series Enter>text in Los Angeles, and has taught at CalArts and the UVA Young Writers Workshop. He lives in New York City.

Claire Jiménez is a Puerto Rican writer who grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York. She is the author of the short story collection Staten Island Stories (Johns Hopkins Press, 2019) and What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez (Grand Central, 2023). She received her M.F.A. from Vanderbilt University and her PhD in English with specializations in Ethnic Studies and Digital Humanities from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In 2019, she co-founded the Puerto Rican Literature Project, a digital archive documenting the lives and work of hundreds of Puerto Rican writers from over the last century. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of South Carolina.

Alice McDermott is the author of nine novels, all published by FSG, including Charming Billy, winner of the National Book Award, and That NightAt Weddings and Wakes, and After This, which were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. She is also the author of the essay collection What About the Baby?: Some Thoughts on the Art of Fiction. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe New YorkerHarper’s Magazine, and other publications. She lives outside Washington, DC.

Colin Winnette’s books include CoyoteHaints Stay, and The Job of the Wasp, which was an American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next Pick. Winnette’s writing has appeared in numerous publications, including PlayboyMcSweeney’s, The Believer, and The Paris Review Daily. A former bookseller in Texas, Vermont, New York, and California, he is now a writer living in San Francisco.