2024 Aspen Words Literary Prize finalists revealed

Aspen Words Literary Prize has revealed the finalists for the prestigious 2024 edition showcasing a diverse range of literary works that delve into pressing contemporary issues, per lithub.com. The annual award, which carries a substantial $35,000 prize, aims to recognise fiction that not only sheds light on critical societal matters but also demonstrates literature’s profound impact on shaping thoughts and cultures.

Selected by a distinguished jury comprising Lan Samantha Chang, Christina Baker Kline, Anthony Marra, Chinelo Okparanta and Simran Jeet Singh, the shortlist features five outstanding novels. Among them is Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Chain-Gang All-Stars, a thought-provoking exploration of racism, mass incarceration and capitalist violence, drawing parallels to our current reality while showcasing the transformative potential of literature akin to classics like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984.

Aaliyah Bilal’s Temple Folk offers poignant insights into spiritual loss and renewal within the Black American Muslim community, earning comparisons to literary stalwarts like Anton Chekhov and Edward P. Jones. Meanwhile, Jamel Brinkley’s Witness delivers a collection of intimate narratives centred on the act of bearing witness, set against the backdrop of contemporary New York City.

Isabella Hammad’s Enter Ghost takes readers on a journey of self-discovery and belonging through the eyes of Sonia Nasir, a stage actress returning to her Palestinian roots, while James McBride’s The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store paints a rich tapestry of immigrant life in Chicken Hill, Pennsylvania, tackling themes of race, class, and community dynamics.

The winner will be unveiled during an awards ceremony on April 25 at The Morgan Library in New York City, a free event open to the public and hosted by NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly.

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