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

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

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

David Chariandy

Gun Love
Jennifer Clement

Akwaeke Emezi

Small Country
Gaël Faye

Where the Dead Sit Talking
Brandon Hobson

An American Marriage
Tayari Jones

The Incendiaries
R.O. Kwon

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

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.