The finalists for the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction have been announced, and are as follows:

  • The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (West Virginia University Press)
  • Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear by Matthew Salesses (Little A)
  • The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman (Scribner)
  • Scattered Lights by Steve Wiegenstein (Cornerpost).

“The five finalists for this year's PEN/Faulkner Award are very different, their dazzling voices restrained, chaotic, tender, and funny in turn,” the three judges for this year's prize, Charles Finch, Bernice L. McFadden, and Alexi Zentner, said in a statement. “But all five are radical truth-seekers. In their worlds, we return to the most essential questions about how we live and why: the questions that our present moment in history has prompted, too.”

The five finalists were selected from a list of 419 novels and short story collections published in the U.S. during 2020, which were submitted by 170 publishing houses, including independent and academic presses. The winner will receive $15,000, and will be announced on April 6; the remaining four finalists will each receive an honorarium of $5,000.

An awards celebration will be held virtually on May 10, and will also honor LeVar Burton, who has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion.