Summer Writing Programs Are Going Virtual!

Although we are disappointed we can’t gather in person with our young writers to grow and learn together, we are excited to still offer a dynamic and engaging writing camp virtually this summer. Led by our team of writers, young people will explore different craft aspects of creative writing, meet with editors and authors to talk about their roles in making words come alive, and explore themes of social justice. Young writers interested in any genre of writing are encouraged to sign up.

For the first time this year, we’re expanding our Summer Writing Programs to include rising 6th-8th graders through our Creative Writing Camp and rising 3rd-5th graders through Literacy All-Stars! These June literacy workshops will bring together hands-on activities for young people and their families. 

AMPLIFIED –  Summer Writing Program for Teens is an opportunity for teens to grow as writers while connecting with others in a safe space. This summer, teens can sign up to participate in as many workshop sessions as they want. From book club discussions to comedy writing to plot and character in fiction to personal statement coaching to an exploration of #OwnVoices–-there’s a session for every writer! 

In our Creative Writing Workshops for Middle Schoolers, young writers will learn how to personify an animal, write about monsters and other creatures, decorate their writing like a cake, and talk about books they love and hate.

Literacy All-Stars! from Ages 7-11 is a space for students ages 7-11 to put on their creative hats in daily sessions that bring together reading, writing, and creativity through hands-on and interactive activities. Families welcomed and encouraged!

Thanks to the generosity of local funders, we offer our Summer Writing Programs at no-cost to students attending public or charter schools in Washington, DC. 

If your young writer attends school elsewhere, please consider making a donation for participation in the workshop to help us cover the costs of offering engaging and dynamic literacy programming. You can donate here:


Our Video Celebration of the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award

Please join us in paying tribute to our 2020 winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Chloe Aridjis’ Sea Monsters, as well as our four finalists: Yiyun Li’s Where Reasons EndPeter Rock’s The Night Swimmers; Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s We Cast a Shadow; and Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. We hope you’ll agree that the authors you’re about to hear from represent the full depth and diversity of an amazing year in fiction.

We want to thank everyone who has stood by us under difficult circumstances. At a time when we’re all having to maintain our distance, literature can still bring us together. By supporting PEN/Faulkner, you can ensure that we keep living up to that ideal.

You can help us keep donating free books to DC students. You can help us keep bringing authors into DC schools to inspire the next generation of readers and writers. You can help us continue to hold provocative Literary Conversations for the DC community. You can make sure that we keep being able to recognize major achievements in literary fiction.

You can make a tremendous difference for PEN/Faulkner right now. Any amount you can contribute will definitely help. This is a difficult moment for non-profit organizations everywhere, and we thank you so much for your support.


Announcing the Winner of the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction: SEA MONSTERS by Chloe Aridjis

WASHINGTON, DC—Chloe Aridjis’ Sea Monsters (Catapult) has been selected as the winner of the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

“In these extraordinary times, the written word has never been so important or healing,” said Louis Bayard, PEN/Faulkner Awards Committee Chair. “Sea Monsters, along with our other four finalists, exemplifies the richness, artistry, and diversity of the American literary landscape.”

This year’s judges—Patricia Engel, Ru Freeman, and Porochista Khakpour—considered more than 400 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the US during the 2019 calendar year. Submissions came from more than 160 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. There is no fee for a publisher to submit.

“It is one thing to have a guideline to choose ‘a first among equals’ and another to have to actually accomplish it,” said this year’s judges in a prepared statement. “We did our work in full knowledge that our own long association with the publishing world as critics, writers, and readers should permit us to put our own distinctive stamp on the awarding of this prize and serve to expand its impact. The responsibility of anointing one book meant, therefore, having long and illuminating discussions around the fact that equality contains two significant words, ‘equal’ and ‘quality,’ and to wrestle with both simultaneously. Our strenuous advocacy for a first-ever long-list stemmed from our commitment to elevate the ten exceptional books and their creators whose enormous talents belong in the often insular North American literary tradition. Each of our five finalists deserves the prize for the ways they opened new veins of investigation in terms of craft, theme, and voice. Each book moved and inspired us deeply and is a cause for celebration. It is a testament to the fairness of this process that we explored every possible reason to award the prize to each of these writers before choosing our winner: Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis. Set against spectacular Oaxacan landscapes and full of surrealist possibilities, Sea Monsters is a stunning exploration of the ways its brilliant teenage narrator’s interior and exterior worlds are both fluid and in opposition. This dreamlike near-fable of equal parts philosophical and intellectual vigor is a book unlike any other; a true standout and a gift for these times in which we are all craving escape.”

Chloe Aridjis is a Mexican American writer who grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico. She is the author of three novels: Book of Clouds, which won the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in France; Asunder, set in London’s National Gallery; and Sea Monsters. Chloe completed a PhD at Oxford in nineteenth-century French poetry and magic shows and was guest curator of the Leonora Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014 and the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writers Award for 2020. Chloe is a member of XR Writers Rebel, a group of writers who focus on addressing the climate emergency. She lives in London, where she often writes for art journals.

“I feel deeply honored, grateful, and overwhelmed to receive this news, which arrives at a moment of strange, unfamiliar isolation from the outside world,” said Aridjis. “I have been carrying this story with me for 30 years, ever since living it, and never in my wildest dreams would have expected it to join such splendid company. Sea Monsters is at heart a novel about transformation, and my most fervent wish at present is that when humanity emerges from this crisis, we do so transformed, with a greater appreciation of one another, and of other species, and with a vast sense of renewal.”

The PEN/Faulkner Award is America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction. As the author of the winning book, Aridjis will receive a $15,000 prize. The authors of each of the other finalists—Yiyun Li, for Where Reasons End; Peter Rock, for The Night Swimmers; Maurice Carlos Ruffin, for We Cast a Shadow; and Ocean Vuong, for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous—will receive $5,000. Recent winners include Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi; Improvement by Joan Silber; Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue; Delicious Foods by James Hannaham; Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish; and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

All five books and their authors will be honored in a 40th Anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award Celebration tribute video that will be released on Monday, May 4. The video will include citations from our 2020 judges and appearances by all five finalist authors. Those who are interested in viewing our virtual celebration can join the organization’s email list to be notified when the video makes its debut.

Patricia Engel is the author of The Veins of the Ocean, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, winner of the International Latino Book Award; and Vida, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway and Young Lions Fiction Awards and winner of Colombia’s national prize in literature, the Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her stories have been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, and elsewhere.

Ru Freeman is a Sri Lankan and American writer, poet, and activist whose work appears internationally in English and in translation. She is the author of the novels A Disobedient Girl (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2009) and On Sal Mal Lane (Graywolf, 2013), a New York Times Editor’s Choice Book. She is the editor of the anthology Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine (2015) and co-editor of Indivisible: Global Leaders on Shared Security (2018). She writes for the UK Guardian, the New York Times, and the Boston Globe and blogs for the Huffington Post on literature and politics. She is a contributing editorial board member of the Asian American Literary Review and is the recipient of fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and the Lannan Foundation. She is a winner of the Mariella Gable Award for Fiction and the JH Kafka Prize for Fiction by an American Woman. She teaches creative writing at Columbia University.

Porochista Khakpour is an Iranian American novelist, essayist, and writer. Her debut novel Sons and Other Flammable Objects (Grove/Atlantic, 2007) was a New York Times Editor’s Choice, one of Chicago Tribune‘s Fall’s Best, and the 2007 California Book Award winner in the “First Fiction” category. Her second novel The Last Illusion (Bloomsbury, 2014) was a 2014 “Best Book of the Year” according to NPR, Kirkus, Buzzfeed, Popmatters, Electric Literature, and many more. Among her many fellowships is a National Endowment for the Arts award. Her nonfiction has appeared in many sections of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Elle, Slate, Salon, and Bookforum, among many others. She has also written the memoir SICK (Harper Perennial, 2018); and the collection of essays Brown Album (Vintage, 2019). Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes. Her third novel, Tehrangeles, will be
published by Knopf Doubleday in 2020. Born in Tehran and raised in the Los Angeles area, she lives in New York City’s Harlem.

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation celebrates literature and fosters connections between readers and writers to enrich and inspire both individuals and communities. We achieve that mission in three ways. We administer the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story to help call the world’s attention to literary achievements. We bring authors and free books into under-resourced DC public and public charter school classrooms to inspire the next generation of readers and writers. And we curate an annual series of Literary Conversations centered around the work of accomplished authors that are designed to inspire public discourse about deeply relevant subjects.

Announcing the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Finalists!

Judges have selected the five finalists for the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction. The finalists are Sea Monsters by Chloe Arijdis (Catapult), Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li (Random House), Night Swimmers by Peter Rock (Soho Press), We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World), and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press).

“These five finalists represent clear evidence of the breadth and diversity of contemporary fiction,” said PEN/Faulkner Executive Director Gwydion Suilebhan. “We are delighted to be able to celebrate such exemplary literary achievements.”

This year’s judges—Patricia Engel, Ru Freeman, and Porochista Khakpour—considered more than 400 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the US during the 2019 calendar year. Submissions came from more than 160 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. There is no fee for a publisher to submit.

“Edward Said once wrote that humanism is the final resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history,” said this year’s judges in a prepared statement. “In writing that spins between the deeply personal to the brilliantly fantastic, these five writers have looked deeply, and with empathy, into the humanity of their characters and given us books that defy genre. Their courage and skill open the field for a new kind of literature that is dazzlingly inventive and vital.”

The “first among equals” winner, who will receive $15,000, will be announced on April 6, 2020. The remaining four finalists will each receive an honorarium of $5,000. All five authors will be honored at the 40th Anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award Celebration, which will be held on May 4 at 6:30 pm at the Willard Hotel. Tickets are $600 for an opening reception featuring specialty cocktails inspired by our finalists, a seated dinner, the award ceremony, and a post-event reception as well. Tickets can be purchased online at


Chloe Aridjis is a Mexican American writer who grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico. She is the author of three novels, Book of Clouds, which won the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in France, Asunder, set in London’s National Gallery, and Sea Monsters. Chloe completed a PhD at Oxford in nineteenth-century French poetry and magic shows and was guest curator of the Leonora Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014 and the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writers Award for 2020. Chloe is a member of XR Writers Rebel, a group of writers who focus on addressing the climate emergency. She lives in London, where she often writes for art journals. 

Yiyun Li is the author of five works of fiction—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. A native of Beijing and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is the recipient of many awards, including a PEN/Hemingway Award and a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, and was named by The New Yorker as one of the “20 Under 40” fiction writers to watch. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories, among other publications. She teaches at Princeton University and lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Peter Rock is the author of ten works of fiction, most recently The Night Swimmers, SPELLS, Klickitat and The Shelter Cycle.  The recipient of fellowships from Stanford University, the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, he currently lives with his wife and daughters in Portland, Oregon, where he has taught writing at Reed College since 2001. Leave No Trace, Debra Granik’s adaptation of his novel My Abandonment, premiered at Sundance and Cannes and was released in 2018.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin 
is the author of We Cast A Shadow, a finalist for the PEN/Open Book Award, and longlisted for the Center for Fiction Prize and the Aspen Words Literary Prize; and named one of the best books of the year by NPR and The Washington Post. His work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly ReviewAGNIThe Kenyon Review and elsewhere. A native of New Orleans, Ruffin is a graduate of the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop and a member of the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance.

Ocean Vuong
is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds and the New York Times bestselling novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. A recipient of the 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Grant, he is also the winner of the Whiting Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His writings have been featured in The AtlanticHarper’s MagazineThe NationThe New RepublicThe New Yorker, and The New York Times. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.


The 40th Anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award Celebration

Monday, May 4 at The Willard Hotel
6:30 pm, Cocktails
7:30 pm, Dinner and Award Program

Join us on the 40th anniversary of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction as we celebrate this year’s distinguished books and authors. This exquisite literary evening—our sole fundraiser in 2020—will feature presentations by our PEN/Faulkner Award judges, original readings by our five PEN/Faulkner Award finalists, and a star-studded list of notable guest authors from throughout PEN/Faulkner’s storied history.

The Board of Directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation invites your generous participation as a sponsor. Your support will advance our mission to celebrate literature and foster connections between readers and writers to enrich and inspire both individuals and communities. Proceeds from this year’s Awards will provide critical resources for our initiatives, including:

  • Our Education Programs. We inspire the next generation of readers and writers by providing free books and author visits to thousands of public and public charter school students in schools throughout all eight wards of DC.
  • Our Literary Conversations. We bring dozens of writers to DC to inspire cross-cultural civic discourse about vital contemporary issues with members of the community.
  • Our Literary Awards. With the annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the largest artist-selected prize of its kind, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, we recognize significant achievements by leading American writers.

Meena & Liaquat Ahamed
Beth & Shalom Baranes
Lisa Barry & James Gale
Katherine & David Bradley
The Honorable Ann Brown
Molly Elkin & Ivan Wasserman
Ann & Tom Friedman
Ginny Grenham
Kay Kendall & Jack Davies
Mary & Robert Haft
Willee & Finlay Lewis
Cathy Merrill, Washingtonian
Susan Richards Shreve

Amy & Bret Baier
Buffy Cafritz
Wm. Randall Cone
The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation
Entravision Communications
Esther Safran Foer & Bert Foer
Julie & Jon Garcia
Renée K. & Stephen Gardner
Jay & Robin Hammer
Andrea Hatfield & Buck O’Leary
Mirella & Dani Levinas
Tracy B. & Greg McGillivary
Carol Melton & Joseph Hassett
Louisa & Bill Newlin
Malcolm & Virginia O’Hagan
Politics & Prose Bookstore
Eileen Shields-West & Robin West
Emily & Antoine van Agtmael

H.G. Carrillo, Chair · Tracy McGillivary, President

Louis Bayard, Jackson R. Bryer, Conrad Cafritz, H.G. Carrillo, Susan Coll, Molly Elkin, · Renée K. Gardner, Ginny Grenham, Mary Haft, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Dale LeFebvre, Tony Lewis, Jr., Willee Lewis, Richard McCann, Malcolm O’Hagan, Frazier O’Leary, Lisa Page, Bethanne Patrick, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Katherine Field Stephen, and Deborah Tannen

Chloe Arijdis
Yiyun Lin
Peter Rock
Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Ocean Vuong

Patricia Engel, 2020 Judge
Ru Freeman, 2020 Judge
Porochista Khakpour, 2020 Judge
Elliot Ackerman
Marie Arana
David Baldacci
Lou Bayard
H.G. Carrillo
Susan Coll
Esther Safran Foer
Lauren Francis-Sharma
Paul Goldberg
James Hannaham
Angie Kim
Matthew Klam
Julie Langsdorf
David Maraniss
Jane Mayer
Imbolo Mbue
Richard McCann
Alice McDermott
Sabina Murray
Toby Olson
Lisa Page
Susan Richards Shreve
Deborah Tannen
and more to come!

Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World


You can also sponsor the event online or contact us directly at or (202) 898-9063. Thank you!

Announcing the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award Longlist!

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the PEN/Faulkner Award, we asked this year’s award judges to select a long list of the ten most significant books published in 2019. We are pleased to announce the following books which have been longlisted for the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction:

Sea Monsters – Chloe Aridjis
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Sing to It – Amy Hempel
The Topeka School – Ben Lerner
Where Reasons End – Yiyun Li
The Night Swimmers – Peter Rock
We Cast a Shadow – Maurice Carlos Ruffin
A People’s History of Heaven – Mathangi Subramanian
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong
The Bird King – G. Willow Wilson

Wired: A Literary Conversation on Mental Health – Tickets On Sale Now!

We are excited to announce that our first Literary Conversation of 2020, Wired, will be held on Thursday, February 27. Tickets can be purchased here.

According to the NIMH, almost twenty percent of American adults live with a mental illness. From social anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, mental illness is becoming more prevalent in today’s society and everyday dialogue.

To combat the continuous misunderstandings about this topic, authors Zack McDermott (Gorilla & The Bird) and Esmé Weijun Wang (The Collected SchizophreniasThe Border of Paradise) have relived their highs and lows in the pages of their work to not only break the stigma of mental illness, but also to humanize it. They will be joined by author and cultural critic Isaac Fitzgerald (The Rumpus, BuzzFeed Books) in this discussion of mental health and literature today.

The onstage discussion will be followed by a Q&A with the audience and a book signing. Books will be available for sale.

This event is co-sponsored by GWU’s Colonial Health Center as part of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s Literary Conversations series.

Black Lives Matter Week of Action

Ten percent. In 2018, that was the percentage of published children’s books that featured a character who was African or African American. Ten percent.

The total percentage of children’s books featuring African or African American, Asian Pacific American, Latinx, or First Nations characters was only 23%. That’s still less than the number of children’s books that featured an animal or inanimate object (27%), and significantly less than the number of children’s books about white characters (50%).*

The public school population in DC is composed of 90% students of color. When less than a quarter of children’s books show any characters of color, the representation gap between students’ identities and the characters in the stories they read is a stark problem. 

Narratives serve as vehicles of culture, language, and identity–affirmations of who we are in the world. As Rudine Sims Bishop notes, “Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience.” In this way, stories can become mirrors, validating our lives and experiences. 

At PEN/Faulkner, our education programs provide DC students with mirrors that reflect back who they are. We donate books so that students can build their own personal libraries; conduct author visits in classrooms for enlivening, enlightening discussions; and offer writing workshops in which young people can tell their own stories. 

We have actively widened our circle of partner authors to include a more diverse list of authors and books. As one educator recently told us, not only are visits with authors an opportunity for students to meet a writer in person, “It is also important for students to see writers who look like them and [who] can share with them their lived experiences.” 

From February 3-7, DC schools will recognize the Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools. Built on the momentum and actions of the national Black Lives Matter movement, this week is an opportunity for schools to bring Black Lives Matter into their classrooms to examine injustices at the intersections of race, class, and gender.

As part of the week, PEN/Faulkner authors have been invited by educators to join in the discussions. Keeping in mind the need for better and deeper representation in children’s literature, several authors will join the week’s actions, including Jason Reynolds, the newly named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature; Alan King, a poet whose recent collection tackles masculinity, fear, and the reality of Black lives in joy and sorrow; and L.Y. Marlow, a writer and activist whose fiction and nonfiction about the lives of women and girls of color doubles as empowerment to help them face their inner and outer monsters.

BLM Week of Action in DC area schools is sponsored by the DC Area Educators for Social Justice and Teaching for Change. We are proud to play a part.

* Data on books by and about people of color and from First/Native Nations published for children and teens compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Celebrating Our Education Programs

The name PEN/Faulkner may conjure images of literary delights, from dynamic authors in conversation to our prestigious, peer-juried awards in fiction and the short story. Alongside these nationally-reaching endeavors, we bring more than one hundred writers to schools across our home city of Washington, DC every year to engage students in the power of the written word.


For more than 30 years, our Writers in Schools program has personalized literary
expression by bringing renowned authors to classrooms in some of the city’s lowest-performing schools. We donate a copy of each writer’s book to every student in each
classroom we visit, and students prepare burning questions ranging from “How does your experience of racism impact your writing?” to “Do you like Mambo sauce?” (a condiment specific to DC culture). When writers visit, conversations are enriching and
enlightening—for everyone. Writers sign copies of students’ books…and sometimes they get asked to sign hoodies, tennis shoes, water bottles, and even students’ arms. Young people in our education programs make genuine and meaningful connections to writers, and they often find the power to share their personal narratives as well.

In the past few years, we’ve deepened our work with young people by expanding our literacy efforts—through identity-based and language-based programming such as Nuestra Voz; by returning to schools more frequently in order to spend more time with students; and by adding writing programs both during the school year and in the summer months. We believe in expanding young people’s compassion and knowledge about the world through the written word by creating opportunities for exposure, connection, and new ways to grow.

When the winner of our recent Youth Essay Contest, Queenal Ayaba, read her personal essay about the impact violence and war in her home country of Cameroon has on her at our recent Gala, Senator Patrick Leahy sought her out after the reading. He told her she shared a powerful story, and he encouraged her to stay in touch. Author Michael
Cunningham told us how impressed he was by students in a recent visit—and how they
gave him hope for the future. And poet DaMaris B. Hill emphasized how crucial democracy is, conducting her time with students through a collective and wholly democratic approach to the discussion, all while weaving in references to Shakespeare, Angela Davis, and Ida B. Wells.

We’re honored that educators invite us to their classrooms again and again to join in the journey of learning with their students. With more than 90% of our partner schools
designated as high-poverty, the power of narrative, and the encouragement for youth to
shout their personal stories, is especially needed.


Voices from PEN/Faulkner Interns: Sabrina Sthay

This fall, PEN/Faulkner had the privilege of being joined by three amazing interns. Before they left us, they each wrote essays inspired by their time in the organization. It’s our honor to share them with you. We started with a piece by Anique Jones, continued with a piece by Demory Hobbs, and we’re wrapping up with this essay by Sabrina Sthay:


We now live in a time in which diversity is not only crucial, but cherished in our workplaces, school systems, and even social settings. It is due to my hearing loss that I have always been fascinated by the growing attention paid toward the Deaf and hard of hearing  communities. 

I was only four when I lost my hearing, but it never stopped me from wanting to excel in the world. I knew I had my place in a world of flowing creativity and literature. I’m not the only one with such rich passions, but sadly, the fine arts and literary achievements of those who are Deaf and/or hard of hearing are not often celebrated. In honor of some of these individuals, I want to recognize them and their achievements.

Stephen Colbert 

Colbert is well known on The Late Show and The Daily Show, but he has also written three books and is an author for the Tek Jansen comic book series. What you may not have known about Colbert is that he became deaf in his right ear when he was a young boy due to a severely perforated eardrum. 

Donald Harington 

Entertainment Weekly recognized Harington as “America’s Greatest Unknown Writer.” The surrealist author of the Stay More series, Harrington has received multiple rewards, including the Oxford American Lifetime Award for Contributions to Southern Literature, The Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction, Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame, and the Porter Prize of Literary Excellence. When Harington was 12, he became ill with meningitis, which left him hard of hearing in both of his ears. Nonetheless, he pursued his writing and had a 22-year teaching career at the University of Arkansas as well. 

Marlee Matlin 

Matlin is an idol in the Deaf community. She has conquered so much! When she was nearly two years old, she became sick and lost her hearing. Today, she is not only a mother, but an actress, author, and an activist for the Deaf community and other causes. She has penned the following books and memoirs: I’ll Scream Later and Deaf Child Crossing. She also co-authored Nobody’s Perfect and Doug Cooney.

David Wright 

Wright is a South American poet who suffered from Scarlet Fever when he was seven years old. Due to his illness, he became deaf.  He has written a collection of poetry and an autobiography Deafness, A Personal Account. He has also translated The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf. 

Cece Bell 

Bell is another award-winning author and graphic novelist. Her book, El-Deafo, is based on her childhood and the struggles she encountered growing up deaf. The book was the recipient of the Newbery Medal Honor and Eisner Award. 

Sara Novic 

Sara Novic is the author of the book Girl at War, a coming of age story set in Yugoslavia. Girl at War was named one of the best books of the year in 2015 by Bookpage, Booklist, and Electric Literature. It was also the Alex Award Winner and a Los Angelos Times Book Prize Finalist, and it was Longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. In a post in The Guardian, Novic talks about her progressive hearing loss, the struggle to overcome stereotypes, and the benefits of being deaf. 

The successes of these authors, who face similar challenges to me, is not only empowering and hopeful for me, but magnificent. I’m glad that as we increasingly celebrate literary diversity, we are beginning to hear the voices of Deaf and hard of hearing writers, too.