Exclusive: 'Friday Black,' 'There There' And More Longlisted For Aspen Words Prize Other titles include Ling Ma's Severance and Elaine Castillo's America is Not the Heart. This is the second year for the prize, which focuses on fiction that addresses contemporary issues.
NPR logo Exclusive: 'Friday Black,' 'There There' And More Longlisted For Aspen Words Prize

Exclusive: 'Friday Black,' 'There There' And More Longlisted For Aspen Words Prize

The Aspen Words literary prize is given to works of fiction that address contemporary issues. Erin Baiano hide caption

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Erin Baiano

The Aspen Words literary prize is given to works of fiction that address contemporary issues.

Erin Baiano

The Aspen Institute has announced this year's nominees for its annual prize — 16 titles (including several short story collections and quite a few debut authors) that, in the Institute's words, address "a vital contemporary issue."

The topics these books cover may seem familiar if you follow the news, Aspen Words executive director Adrienne Brodeur said in a statement. "Gun violence, immigration, police brutality, Native American culture — but fiction allows us to examine these issues with more compassion." Brodeur says she hopes the list will get these books into readers' hands, "while also sparking meaningful dialogue around some of our greatest challenges today."

Last year's inaugural prize went to Mohsin Hamid, for Exit West, his powerful novel about migration, refugees, love and loss.

The Institute has partnered with NPR to announce this year's list, as well as the finalists in February. Five judges — including National Book Award nominee Dorothy Allison and Whiting Award winner Samrat Upadhyay — will pick the finalists and the winner of the $35,000 prize, which will be revealed in April at a ceremony in New York City.

You can find the nominees here — or simply scroll down for the list, with links to our coverage.

Friday Black
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah


The Boat People
Sharon Bala


A Lucky Man: Stories
Jamel Brinkley


America is Not the Heart
Elaine Castillo


Brother
David Chariandy


Gun Love
Jennifer Clement


Freshwater
Akwaeke Emezi


Small Country
Gaël Faye


Where the Dead Sit Talking
Brandon Hobson


An American Marriage
Tayari Jones


The Incendiaries
R.O. Kwon


Severance
Ling Ma


Bring Out the Dog: Stories
Will Mackin


There There
Tommy Orange


If You See Me, Don't Say Hi: Stories
Neel Patel


Heads of the Colored People
Nafissa Thompson-Spires