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Dos Passos Prize finalists announced

Longwood University is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2021 John Dos Passos Prize, the oldest literary award given by a Virginia college or university, which honors one of America’s most talented but underappreciated writers. The list includes a PEN/Malamud Award winner, Pulitzer Prize finalist, PEN/Faulkner Award finalist, National Book Award finalist and one author who was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize.

This year’s five finalists selected by the John Dos Passos Prize jury are celebrated authors whose published works defy literary conventions and experiment with form. Their exceptional works are taught in college classrooms across the country.

The 2021 finalists with selected works are:

  • Sarah Shun-lien Bynum: Madeleine is Sleeping; Ms. Hempel Chronicles; Likes
  • Nathan Englander: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank; Dinner at the Center of the Earth; Kaddish.com
  • Maaza Mengiste: Beneath the Lion’s Gaze; The Shadow King
  • Monique Truong: The Book of Salt; Bitter in the Mouth; The Sweetest Fruits
  • Leni Zumas: Farewell Navigator; The Listeners; Red Clocks

This year’s winner will be the 40th recipient of the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature. Launched in 1980, the prize is given annually by Longwood University to an underappreciated writer whose work offers incisive, original commentary on American themes. The winner of the prize receives an honorarium and will give a reading on Longwood’s campus in the spring of 2022.

The 2021 Dos Passos Prize selection jury comprises last year’s winner, author Aleksandar Hemon; Brandon Haffner, assistant professor of English at Longwood and chair of the selection jury; and author, scholar, teacher and recent Pew fellow Kirsten Kaschock. The committee looks for works that explore specifically American themes, experiment with form and encompass a range of human experiences.

“I love the ingenuity of these five authors,” Haffner said. “Their stories take surprising shapes and show off the thrilling possibilities of fiction.”

Previous winners of the Dos Passos Prize have gone on to win prestigious literary awards, including Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards. They include Paul Beatty (2015), Ruth Ozeki (2014), Colson Whitehead (2012), Jill McCorkle (2000), Annie Proulx (1997), Shelby Foote (1988) and Tom Wolfe (1984).

The prize winner will be announced in October.