2013 PEN Open Book Award

Winners

Gina ApostolGun Dealers' Daughter (W.W. Norton & Co.)

Kevin YoungThe Grey Album (Graywolf Press)

The PEN Open Book Award was created by PEN American Center’s Open Book Committee, a group committed to racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities. The award confers a $5,000 prize upon an author of color.

2013 Judges

Cyrus Cassells, Porochista Khakpour, and Tiphanie Yanique.

From the Judges' Citation for Gun Dealers' Daughter

You will read Gun Dealers’ Daughter wondering where Gina Apostol novels have been all these years (in the Philippines, it turns out). You will feel sure (and you will be correct) that you have discovered a great fiction writer in the midst of making literary history. Gun Dealers’ Daughter is a story of young people who rebel against their parents, have sex with the wrong people, and betray those they should be most loyal to. At its essence this is a coming of age novel, albeit one where rebellion is part of a national revolution and where sex with another girl’s boyfriend leads to assassination. This is coming of age in the 1980s, Philippine dictatorship style, where college students are killed for their activism. The telling is fractured, as are the times. The reveal of information happens in a nonlinear manner, reflective of the mental breakdown suffered by the main character, Sol. We flip between Manila, where Sol is in school, and New York, where she goes to escape the madness that she has done and that has been done to her. Through this novel we see how fiction can scrape out a future, demand a re-look at the past—it is a reckoning kind of book. Not only does this novel make an argument for social revolution, it makes an argument for the role of literature in revolution—the argument being that literature can be revolution.

From the Judges' Citation for The Grey Album

Like Duke Ellington’s fabled, Harlem-bound A Train, Kevin Young’s The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness propels us across a panorama of African American history, creativity and struggle with a lightning-brisk brilliance and purpose. Here’s what happens when an acclaimed poet makes his first foray into nonfiction: madcap manifesto and rhapsodic reportage create a formidable blend of scholarship and memoir that tackles cultural and personal history in one breath. Young goes far beyond just being a documentarian of American Black identity—he shows us how Black identity is indispensable to American culture. The Grey Album is an ambitious, exhilarating, impassioned work of Black literary and cultural criticism, unlike any other—an inspired, sweeping book that deserves to be savored and celebrated.

Shortlist

Gun Dealers’ Daughter (W.W.  Norton & Co.), Gina Apostol

When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press), Natalie Diaz

Allegiance (Wayne State University Press), Francine J. Harris

Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press), Brenda Shaughnessy

The Grey Album (Graywolf Press), Kevin Young

Previous Winners

Chris Abani, Amiri Baraka, Frances Hwang, Naeem Murr, Joseph M. Marshall III, Uwem Akpan, Juan Felipe Herrera, Lily Hoang, Sherwin Bitsui, Robin D. G. Kelley, Canyon Sam, Manu Josephm, and Siddhartha Deb