Literary Awards Judges

PEN Center USA, the West Coast center of PEN International, the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, is pleased to announce its 2017 Literary Awards judges. The esteemed panel includes NEA, Guggenheim, Lannan, and USA Ford Fellows; Pulitzer Prize and Lambda Literary Award winners; and writers for The New York TimesLos Angeles TimesThe Washington PostEbonyThe AtlanticThe Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal

The 2017 Literary Awards will be presented at The 27th Annual Literary Awards Festival at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212) where Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Blind Assassin) will be honored with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. Atwood has authored over 40 books in addition to her work as an environmental activist and inventor. The event will be hosted by award-winning actor and author Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation, The Founder, Fargo).


Chris Abani is an acclaimed novelist and poet. His most recent books are The Secret History of Las Vegas (Penguin), The Face: A Memoir (Restless Books), and Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press). He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a PEN/Hemingway Award, an Edgar Award, a USA Artists Fellowship, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, a Prince Claus Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship, among many other honors. Born in Nigeria, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Board of Trustees Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago.

Alex Espinoza was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and earned an MFA from the University of California, Irvine’s Programs in Writing. He is the author of Still Water Saints (Random House) and The Five Acts of Diego León (Random House). Alex has written for The New York Time Magazine, Los Angeles Times, SalonHuizache, The Southern California Review, the American Book Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” His awards include the Margaret Bridgman Fellowship in Fiction from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference; a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in prose; and an American Book Award for The Five Acts of Diego León. He is a professor and the director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Arts at California State University, Los Angeles.

Jervey Tervalon is the author of six books including Understand This (University of California Press), for which he won the Quality Paper Book Club’s New Voices Award, and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Dead Above Ground (Pocket Books). His latest novel, Monster’s Chef, was published in June 2014 by Amistad. Currently he is the Executive Director of Los Angeles’ Literature for Life literary magazine and educational advocacy organization, and Literary Director of LitFest Pasadena. 


Dinah Lenney is the author of a memoir-in-essays, The Object Parade (Counterpoint Press), and of Bigger than Life: A Murder, a Memoir (Bison Books), selected for the American Lives series by the University of Nebraska Press. She co-edited Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (W.W. Norton) with the late Judith Kitchen, and co-authored Acting for Young Actors: The Ultimate Teen Guide (Back Stage Books) with Mary Lou Belli. Other work has appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, AGNI, Creative Nonfiction, the Harvard Review, and The Paris Review Daily. Dinah serves as core faculty in the Bennington Writing Seminars and as an editor-at-large for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Thomas Page McBee was the first trans man to ever box in Madison Square Garden. His Lambda award-winning memoir, Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness, and Becoming a Man (City Lights), was named a best book of 2014 by NPR Books, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, and has just been published in the U.K. by Canongate.  His essays and reportage have appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, and Glamour. He is a senior editor at Quartz, and teaches in the social journalism graduate program at CUNY. His new book, Amateur: Why Men Fight, is forthcoming from Scribner.

Elizabeth L. Silver is the author of The Tincture of Time: A Memoir of (Medical) Uncertainty (Penguin Press), and the novel The Execution of Noa P. Singleton (Crown), which was published in seven languages. Her writing has been published in McSweeney’s, New York Magazine, Lenny Letter, The Rumpus, The Millions, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the MA Programme in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in England, and Temple University Beasley School of Law. Silver has worked as an attorney in Texas and California and as an adjunct instructor of English literature and composition in Philadelphia. She lives with her family in Los Angeles.


Simone Browne is associate professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Simone’s first book, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Duke University Press), was awarded the 2016 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize by the American Studies Association, the 2016 Surveillance Studies Book Prize by the Surveillance Studies Network, and the 2015 Donald McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Technology Research. Simone is also a member of Deep Lab, a feminist collaborative composed of artists, engineers, hackers, writers, and theorists.

Lillian Faderman is an internationally known scholar of lesbian and LGBT history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature. Her books Surpassing the Love of Men (Harper), Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America (Penguin), and The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle (Simon & Schuster) were named New York Times Notable Books of the Year and The Guardian named Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers one of the Top 10 Books of Radical History. Among her many honors are six Lambda Literary Awards, and several lifetime achievement awards for scholarship, including Yale University’s James Brudner Award, the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives Culture Hero Award, and the American Association of University Women’s Distinguished Senior Scholar Award.

Dan Slater has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, and GQ, among other publications. He is the author of Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating (Current) and Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel (Simon & Schuster), which is soon to be a major motion picture from Sony and Fuqua Films. A graduate of Colgate University and Brooklyn Law School, Dan lives in New England.


Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press. She is a Lannan Literary Fellow and a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow. She was awarded a Bread Loaf Fellowship, the Bernice Holmes National Poetry Prize, a Hodder Fellowship, a PEN/Civitella Ranieri Foundation Residency, and a USA Ford Fellowship. Diaz teaches at Arizona State University’s MFA program. She splits her time between the East Coast and Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she works to revitalize the Mojave language.

Saeed Jones’s debut poetry collection, Prelude To Bruise (Coffee House Press), was the winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award For Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award. Prelude was also a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, the 2015 Lambda Literary Award, and the 2015 Publishing Triangle Award. His poetry and essays have appeared in publications including The New York Times, NPR, Guernica, Ebony, and The Best American Poetry, among others. Saeed won a Pushcart Prize for poetry in 2013 and is BuzzFeed’s Executive Editor of Culture.

Richard Siken is a poet, painter, filmmaker, and an editor at Spork Press. He is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts grant, a Lannan Residency Fellowship, and a Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. His book Crush (Yale University Press) won the 2004 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, the Thom Gunn Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent book is War of the Foxes (Copper Canyon Press).


Kami Garcia is a #1 New York Times bestselling and Bram Stoker-nominated author, the co-author of the Beautiful Creatures and Dangerous Creatures novels, and co-founder of the annual YALLFEST book festival. Her solo series, The Legion, includes the instant New York Times bestseller Unbreakable and its sequel, Unmarked. Her first contemporary romance, The Lovely Reckless (Imprint) was published in October 2016.

Brendan Kiely is The New York Times bestselling author of All American Boys (Simon & Schuster) with Jason Reynolds, The Last True Love Story (Margaret K. McElderry Books), and The Gospel of Winter (Margaret K. McElderry Books). His work has been published in ten languages. Brendan received a Coretta Scott King Book Award, the Walter Dean Myers Award, the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award, was twice awarded Best Fiction for Young Adults (2015 and 2017) by the American Library Association, and was a named a Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014. Originally from the Boston area, he now lives with his wife in New York City.

Bill Konigsberg is the award-winning young adult author of four novels, including The Porcupine of Truth (Scholastic Inc.), which won the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Stonewall Book Award in 2016; Openly Straight (Arthur A. Levine Books), winner of the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor in 2014; Out of the Pocket (Dutton Juvenile), which won the Lambda Literary Award in 2009; and his most recent novel, Honestly Ben (Arthur A. Levine Books), which received three starred reviews, from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal. Prior to turning his attention to writing books for teens, Bill was a sports writer and editor for and The Associated Press. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Practice at The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. Bill lives in Chandler, Arizona, with his husband, Chuck, and their Australian Labradoodles, Mabel and Buford.


Jennifer Croft is the recipient of Fulbright, PEN, MacDowell and National Endowment for the Arts grants and fellowships, as well as the Michael Henry Heim Prize for Translation and a Tin House Scholarship for Homesick.  She is a Founding Editor of The Buenos Aires Review. Her translations include Romina Paula's August (The Feminist Press) from Spanish, and Olga Tokarczuk's Flights (Fitzcarraldo) from Polish. She has published her own work and numerous translations from Polish, Spanish, and Ukrainian in n+1, Electric Literature, BOMB, The New Republic, Asymptote, Words Without Borders, Guernica, Vice, Lit Hub, Music & Literature, The Critical Flame, The Quarterly Conversation and elsewhere. She holds a PhD from Northwestern University and an MFA from the University of Iowa.

Elisabeth Jaquette is a translator from Arabic. Her translation of The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz received an English PEN Translates Award and was longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award. She is also the recipient of a 2017 PEN/Heim Translation Grant. Her shorter translations have appeared in several anthologies, as well as in The New York Times, The Guardian, and other publications. Elisabeth holds an MA in Anthropology from Columbia University, a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Swarthmore College, and was a CASA Fellow at the American University in Cairo. She is also managing director of the American Literary Translators Association, and, in fall 2017, will join Hunter College of the City University of New York as an adjunct lecturer in Arabic translation.

Idra Novey is the author of the debut novel Ways to Disappear (Little, Brown and Co.) winner of the 2016 Sami Rohr Prize, the Brooklyn Eagles Prize, and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Her most recent poetry collection, Exit, Civilian, was selected for the 2011 National Poetry Series. Her fiction and poetry have been translated into ten languages, and she’s written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and New York Magazine. She’s translated four books from Spanish and Portuguese, most recently Clarice Lispector’s novel The Passion According to G.H


Maria Bustillos is a Los Angeles-based journalist and critic. Her work has appeared in Harper's Magazine, The New Yorker, California Sunday, The New York Times, The Awl, Eater, VICE, ESPN, The Guardian, OUT, and many others.

Daniel Hernandez is a journalist, editor, correspondent, long-time blogger, and the author of Down & Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century (Scribner), a beloved exploration of youth subcultures in contemporary Mexico. He is a former staff reporter at the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly. While living in Mexico City, he became editor of VICE Mexico and then Latin America bureau chief for VICE News Tonight. He is working on a second book, and recently joined a digital start-up in Los Angeles called Raze.

Journalist and author Edward Humes is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for specialized reporting, a PEN Center USA Literary Award winner for Research Nonfiction, and the author of 14 books. The New York Times wrote of his latest book, Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation (Harper), “Like Silent Spring and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Door to Door is a rallying point for culture-wide change.” Author, environmentalist, and founder of Bill McKibben said of Humes’s previous book, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, “Unlike most dirty books, this one is novel and fresh on every page.” Humes’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Wired, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sierra, and other publications. He splits his time between Southern California and Seattle with his wife, two children, and three rescued greyhounds.


Diana Burbano, a Colombian immigrant, is a playwright, an Equity actor, and a teaching artist at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, CA. Her written works include Policarpa, Fabulous Monsters (Festival51 2016 winner), Picture me Rollin’ (featured at the 35th annual William Inge Festival), and the Shakespeare mash-up, Caliban’s Island (winner, 2017 Headwaters New Plays of the West Festival at Creede Repertory). She is currently writing material for Center Theatre Group’s Chisme y Queso series, and for Rogue Artists’ Plummer Park project. Diana is one of the original members of the writers circle for Latino Theatre Association/Los Angeles. She is also a member of The Dramatists Guild of America and The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights.

Ruth McKee is a playwright and co-artistic director of the L.A.-based, site-specific company Chalk Repertory Theatre.  Her full-length plays for Chalk Rep include Stray, Full Disclosure, Hell Money, and In Case of Emergency. Ruth’s plays have also been produced and developed by Abingdon Theatre Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alliance Theatre, Black Dahlia Theatre, Center Theatre Group, Cherry Lane Theatre (Mentor Project), Ensemble Studio Theatre, HB Playwrights Foundation, and SPF/NYC. As an educator, she has taught playwriting at Indiana University, UC San Diego, Cypress College, and Idyllwild Arts Academy.  Ruth holds a BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and an MFA from University of California, San Diego.

Chelsea Sutton is a fiction writer, playwright, and 2016 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. Her fiction has appeared in The Rattling Wall, Bourbon Penn, The Texas Observer, Exposition Review, and others, and she was a 2016 Finalist for the Indiana Review Fiction Prize. Her plays have been finalists for the O’Neill Playwrights, PlayPenn, Seven Devils Conference, the Ingram New Works Lab, the Stanley Drama, Woodward/Newman Drama, and Reva Shiner Comedy awards. She was nominated for a Stage Raw Award for her play Wood Boy Dog Fish, written for Rogue Artists Ensemble. She is currently working on a short story collection entitled Curious Monsters and developing new work with the Humanitas Play LA Workshop, Skylight Theatre Company’s Playlab, and Rogue Artists Ensemble.


PEN Center USA’s mission is to stimulate and maintain interest in the written word, to foster a vital literary culture, and to defend freedom of expression domestically and internationally. 

For more information on The 27th Annual Literary Awards Festival, please contact PEN Center USA at or visit LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AWARDS HERE.

Download this announcement as a Press Release HERE