Homegoing Wins $25,000 PEN/Hemingway Award
BOSTON, MA – PEN New England announced that Yaa Gyasi has won the 2017 PEN/Hemingway Award, honoring a distinguished first book of fiction, for her novel Homegoing (Knopf). Patrick Hemingway, the son of Ernest Hemingway, will present the prestigious literary award to Ms. Gyasi on Sunday, April 2, at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
This is the 41st Annual PEN/Hemingway Award, founded in 1976 by Mary Hemingway, the widow of Ernest Hemingway, to honor her late husband and draw attention to first books of fiction. 2017 winner Yaa Gyasi joins other notable PEN/Hemingway winners and honorees including Marilynne Robinson, Edward P. Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Colson Whitehead, Lily King, Jennifer Haigh, ZZ Packer, George Saunders, Ha Jin, Sherman Alexie, Junot Díaz, Yiyun Li, Ben Fountain, Joshua Ferris, Teju Cole, and Ottessa Moshfegh—a four-decade lineage of literary excellence. (See the complete list at www.pen-ne.org/hemingway.)
This year’s judges—authors Andrea Barrett, Helen Elaine Lee, and Jim Shepard—praised Homegoing as a “towering book––imaginative, artful and insightful, full of depth and striking in its scope.”
Ms. Gyasi will receive $25,000 underwritten by the Hemingway Family Prize and the Hemingway Foundation; a month-long Residency Fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a retreat for artists and writers; and a residency from The Distinguished Visiting Writers Series at the University of Idaho’s MFA Creative Writing Program and $5,000.
Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. She lives in New York City.
The two PEN/Hemingway finalists are Bill Beverly for Dodgers (Crown) and Leopoldine Core for When Watched (Penguin).
Bill Beverly grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and studied at Oberlin College and the University of Florida. His research on criminal fugitives and the stories surrounding them became the book On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover’s America. He teaches American literature and writing at Trinity University in Washington, DC.
Leopoldine Core was born and raised in New York's East Village and graduated from Hunter College. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Joyland, Open City, PEN America, among others. She is the recipient of a 2015 Whiting Award for fiction, as well as fellowships from The Center for Fiction and The Fine Arts Work Center. Author of the poetry collection Veronica Bench, Core lives in New York.
Two writers will receive Honorable Mention: Melissa Yancy for Dog Years (University of Pittsburgh) and Callan Wink for Run Dog Moon (Dial Press). Finalists and Honorable Mentions each receive a Residency Fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming.
The awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, April 2, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Renowned author Roxana Robinson will be the keynote speaker.
Roxana Robinson is the author of nine books: five novels, including Cost; three collections of short stories; and the biography Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, BookForum, Best American Short Stories, Tin House and elsewhere. She teaches in the Hunter MFA Program, has received fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation, and is the President of the Authors’ Guild.
The ceremony includes the presentation of the 2017 PEN/New England Awards honoring works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction by New England authors. Jennifer Haigh—herself a PEN/New England Award winner as well as a winner of the PEN/Hemingway for her first novel—is the awards administrator. This year’s judges were Jericho Brown, Leah Hager Cohen, and Roxana Robinson, and the honorees are David Rivard for Standoff (Graywolf Press); Matthew Desmond for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown) and Robin MacArthur for Half Wild (Ecco).
The Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library spans Hemingway’s entire career, and contains ninety percent of existing Hemingway manuscript materials, making the Kennedy Library the world’s principal center for research on the life and work of Ernest Hemingway. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis described Mary Hemingway’s gift of Ernest Hemingway’s papers to the Kennedy Library as helping “to fulfill our hopes that the Library will become a center for the study of American civilization, in all its aspects.”
The PEN/New England Literary Awards Ceremony is supported by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the Hemingway Family, the Friends of the Ernest Hemingway Collection, and Mary & Kurt Cerulli.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is one of 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and is supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Presidential Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.
PEN New England is a chapter of PEN America and stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. For more information visit www.pen-ne.org.
The ceremony will take place on Sunday, April 2, from 2 to 3pm and is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending should call the Kennedy Library at (617) 514-1643 or register on-line at www.jfklibrary.org to reserve a seat.