Authors Withdraw Books from PEN Award Consideration Over Gaza Response

A number of nominees for the PEN Literary Awards have withdrawn their books from consideration over PEN America's response to the war in Gaza. 

As of this writing, the following authors have declined nominations or withdrawn their books from PEN Literary Award consideration:

  • Maya Binyam, whose novel Hangman was nominated for the PEN/Jean Stein and PEN/Hemingway Awards
  • Camoghne Felix, whose memoir Dyscalculia was set to be nominated for the PEN/Jean Stein Award
  • Christina Sharpe, whose book Ordinary Notes was nominated for the PEN/Jean Stein Award
  • Eugenia Leigh, whose collection Bianca was nominated for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry 
  • Ghassan Zeineddine, whose book Dearborn was nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection
  • Cleo Qian, whose book Let's Go Let's Go Let's Go was nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story

In addition, translator Esther Allen, who most recently translated Antonio Di Benedetto's The Silentry and Zama, declined this year's PEN/Ralph Manheim Award for Translation. Short story writers Nick Mandernach and Kelly X. Hui have also declined the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for emerging writers. 

Finally, Sublunary Editions shared that it declined nominations for a number of its titles for this year's awards, including for The Whore by Márcia Barbieri and translated by Adrian Minckley.

In response to Sublunary's decision, four judges of the PEN Translation Prize—Larissa Kyzer, Hanna Leliv, Parisa Saranj, and Jenna Tang—issued a statement to "honor the stance taken by Sublunary Editions" and "stand in solidarity with the publisher and the translators' decision to withdraw from the award." The judges stated that while they "wholeheartedly celebrate and honor the nominees for this year’s literary awards," they are "not, however, proud to be associated with PEN America at this time.” 

In a statement, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said:

"We share sorrow and anguish at the horrific costs of the Israel-Hamas war, including for writers, poets, artists and journalists. We have worked intensively to fulfill our mission over these months through advocacy, support for writers and efforts at convening. We have staunchly defended the imperative of open debate and decried efforts to suppress critical and controversial perspectives.   Alongside support for individual affected writers we have condemned threats to free expression and information flow, called out repressive policies and denounced the destruction of culture.  We approach every conflict—Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Gaza—on its own terms, mindful of complexities, what we can contribute, our constituencies, our partners and our principles. When we take positions, we do not align with states, armies or political groups but with freedom of expression and the preconditions to enable it. PEN exists to support writers, and we have done it with  vigilance for decades. I understand that in a moment of  crisis, some seek to look for bias within institutions. Our bias is for writers."

The story has been updated with more information.

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