One of these four finalists—Engel (left), Hobson, Sexton, Obejas—will be named the 42nd recipient of the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature
One of these four finalists—Engel (left), Hobson, Sexton, Obejas—will be named the 42nd recipient of the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature

Longwood University is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2023 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.

This year’s list of finalists includes a National Book Award finalist, PEN/Faulkner Fiction Award finalist, two Guggenheim Fellows, a Dayton Literary Peace Prize winner, a New York Times bestselling author and a PEN/Hemingway Fiction Award finalist.

The John Dos Passos Prize jury selected four finalists—all celebrated novelists and storytellers whose published works defy literary conventions and experiment with form. Their exceptional works are taught in college classrooms across the country.

The 2023 finalists, with selected works, are:

  • Achy Obejas: Days of Awe (2001); Ruins (2009); The Tower of the Antilles (2017)
  • Brandon Hobson: Deep Ellum (2014); Where the Dead Sit Talking (2018); The Removed (2021)
  • Patricia Engel: The Veins of the Ocean (2016); Infinite Country (2021); The Faraway World (2023)
  • Margaret Wilkerson Sexton: A Kind of Freedom (2017); The Revisioners (2019); On the Rooftop (2022)

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 2024.

“The works of these finalists engage motifs central to American life—identity, conflict, authority, the legacy of the past and the present—in ways that challenge conventions of form and reimagine what is possible in fiction,” said Dr. John Miller, associate professor of early American literature in the English department at Longwood and chair of the selection jury.

The 2023 Dos Passos Prize selection jury comprises last year’s winner, novelist Carolina De Robertis; Miller; and Dr. Hollie Adams, assistant professor of English at the University of Maine. The committee looks for works that explore specifically American themes, experiment and encompass a range of human experiences.

Some of the previous recipients of the Dos Passos Prize have gone on to win prestigious literary awards, including Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards. The list of previous recipients includes Shelby Foote (1998), Earnest J. Gaines (1993), Maxine Hong Kingston (1998), Colson Whitehead (2012), Ruth Ozeki (2014), Paul Beatty (2015), Karen Tei Yamashita (2018), Rabih Alameddine (2019) and Monique Truong (2021).

The winner will be announced in October.

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