Five authors have been shortlisted for the 2017 John Dos Passos Prize for American Literature, given annually by Longwood University. The list includes a National Book Award finalist, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner.

The award, launched in 1980 and is now in its 36th year, is the premier literary prize given by a Virginia university. Authors are selected based on their catalog to date; the selection committee looks for works that explore specifically American themes, experiment with form and encompass a range of human experiences.

The 2017 John Dos Passos Prize for American Literature shortlist is: 

  • Tayari JonesLeaving Atlanta, The Untelling and Silver Sparrow
  • Sam LipsyteVenus Dive, The Subject Steve, Home Land, The Ask and The Fun Parts
  • Chang Rae-LeeNative Speaker, A Gesture Life, Aloft, The Surrendered and On Such a Full Sea
  • Luis Alberto UrreaIn Search of Snow, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Into the Beautiful North and The Devil’s Highway
  • Karen Tei YamashitaThrough the Arc of the Rain Forest, Tropic of Orange, Circle K Cycles and I Hotel

The authors on this year’s shortlist were nominated by members of the Dos Passos Prize Committee, which includes last year’s winner, Danzy Senna.

“I am honored to be a part of the selection for the 36th John Dos Passos Prize for American Literature and to be included in the company of the past winners,” said Senna. “The five nominees this year are truly phenomenal writers whose innovative work has inspired and transfixed me. I was very happy to be chosen to help select the next honoree because I hold the spirit of this prize close to my heart.”

The John Dos Passos Prize for Literature is named for the talented but often overlooked 20th-century American writer, most known for his U.S.A. trilogy. The prize recognizes contemporary American authors who have produced a substantial body of published work that displays characteristics of Dos Passos’ writing: an intense and original exploration of specifically American themes, an experimental approach to form and an interest in a wide range of human experience.

“All of these authors embody the spirit of the Dos Passos Prize,” said Dr. David Magill, associate professor of English at Longwood University and the chair of the Dos Passos Prize committee. “They experiment with form and language to create new ways of seeing the world, and in so doing create fictions that reveal the breadth and depth of American experiences and identities.  It's exciting to read their works and it will be very difficult to choose one winner from these five amazing and unique writers.”

Recent Dos Passos Prize winners include: Paul Beatty (2015), winner of the Man Booker Prize; Colson Whitehead (2012), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award; Sherman Alexie (2013), winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature; and Ruth Ozeki (2014), winner of the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award for Foreign Literature. They join American literature icons such as Annie Proulx (1997), Ernest J. Gaines (1993), Shelby Foote (1988) and Tom Wolfe (1984).

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