Best Debut Short Stories 2020: The Pen America Dau Prize

Tracy O'Neill (Selected by) Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Selected by)
& 1 more

Product Details

$16.95  $15.59
Publish Date
August 25, 2020
5.5 X 8.2 X 0.8 inches | 0.6 pounds

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About the Author

Tracy O'Neill is the author of the novels The Hopeful and Quotients. She has been named a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree and awarded the Center for Fiction's Emerging Writers Fellowship. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and VQR. She attended the MFA program at CCNY and the PhD program in communications at Columbia University. Nafissa Thompson-Spires is the author of Heads of the Colored People, which won the PEN Open Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and an Audie Award. She is also the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, Dissent, and Buzzfeed Books. She teaches creative writing at Cornell University. Deb Olin Unferth is the author of six books, including the novel Barn 8, forthcoming in 2020 from Graywolf. Her work has appeared in Harper's, The Paris Review, Granta, Vice, Tin House, the New York Times, NOON, and McSweeney's. An associate professor at the University of Texas in Austin, she has received a Guggenheim fellowship, three Pushcart Prizes, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award. She also teaches creative writing at a penitentiary in southern Texas.


Remarks from the Judges

"The stories and writers here represent a wide range of voices at the levels of ethnicity, gender, and style. Many carry a very quiet confidence that is refreshing in our harried world, and I feel certain that we will see these authors' names in print again soon." --Nafissa Thompson-Spires, 2020 Best Debut Short Stories anthology judge and author of Heads of the Colored People

"The short fiction I love best knows how to declare with beauty, 'I prefer not to.' It takes the page as a space to refuse what tends to be, unzipping barriers. This collection gathers stories from voices throwing rice at the moment the essential and the original meet." --Tracy O'Neill, 2020 Best Debut Short Stories anthology judge and author of Quotients and The Hopeful

"I love the stories we picked for this collection. I love their passion, invention, and wildness. I love that these are the artists' first published stories. Your first published story never quite gives up its place in the mind. It was the first one chosen--hooray! And yet there is always the nagging doubt ('Is it actually good?') and here we are, celebrating, saying, 'Yes, yes, it is good, so so good!'" --Deb Olin Unferth, 2020 Best Debut Short Stories anthology judge and author of Barn 8 and Wait Till You See Me Dance

"When I sit down with a short story, I'm hoping to be surprised, or unnerved, or waylaid. I want to feel that something is at stake: in the language and structure, in the emotional lives of the characters, in the consequences of their actions. The best stories are almost otherworldly in their dimensions, as if I have opened a small suitcase left on my front door, only to find three geese, a small child, a jewel thief, and her mother emerging. The stories here delighted and surprised and moved me--I'm so very, very glad that I got to read them and that now you do too." --Kelly Link, 2017 judge, 2018 MacArthur Fellow, and author of Get in Trouble

"I was really inspired by what I saw here--not just the beautiful weirdness of the writers and their work, but the fact that the stories were published. It made me feel so hopeful."--Carmen Maria Machado, 2019 judge and author of Her Body and Other Parties

"There were very well-written stories that didn't end up on the final list, edged out by the magnitude of feeling and creativity contained in the final twelve. I was particularly struck by the authors' ability to hit it out of the park, first time up. When I read I'm always (like it or not) guessing what's going to happen at the end of the line, the scene, on the plot level. The stories we chose were those that forced me, a relentless overthinker, to stop thinking. Amy Hempel's first short story was 'In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried.' That story is great, and contains many of the elements she's famous for, but it is not like most of her stories. It's way longer, for one, and more traditional. As if she was only able to peel her inhibitions as she wrote more and more. I'm excited for these authors to participate in that same kind of peeling that helps voice grow more substantial, and I hope this honor gives them the confidence to get weirder and weirder, stronger and stronger."--Marie-Helene Bertino, 2017 judge and author of 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas and Safe as Houses

"I was so blown away by the pieces we chose for this collection--there was a wonderful array of different styles and approaches in the submissions we received, but each of the stories we ended up choosing had something startlingly alive and bracingly imaginative within it. You can tell that these are writers working with total dedication to gift these fictive worlds to their readers, to make these surprising, vivid scenarios real. I am so wildly enthusiastic about what these writers are going to do next--and in reading this anthology, you get to say you've followed their entire career, from the very first short story on! You can't beat that."--Alexandra Kleeman, 2018 judge and author of Intimations and You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine

"A lot of people talk about how so many short stories are becoming too workshopped, too MFA, too a certain kind of story. And I can say, after reading all the entries here, they are wrong. There are so many stories being told that are extraordinary and unexpected. I fretted over picking only twelve. But the stories that won were all stories that astounded us all."--Nina McConigley, 2017 judge and author of Cowboys and East Indians

Praise for PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019

"These stories all share a sense of necessity and urgency . . . What consistently runs through all 12 entries in PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019 is the promise of clear new voices, powerful testimonies, and unique perspectives to assure us that even in our current dark times there will always be the short narrative to take us back into the light." --Christopher John Stephens, PopMatters

"Prominent issues of social justice and cultural strife are woven thematically throughout 12 stories. Stories of prison reform, the immigrant experience, and the aftermath of sexual assault make the book a vivid time capsule that will guide readers back into the ethos of 2019 for generations to come . . . Each story displays a mastery of the form, sure to inspire readers to seek out further writing from these adept authors and publications."--Booklist

Praise for PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2018

"The PEN America contest for outstanding debut fiction returns with a second annual anthology of remarkable prose. This year's submissions were judged by an all-star trio of fiction writers: Jodi Angel, Lesley Nneka Arimah, and Alexandra Kleeman. Once again, the gathered contest winners are uniquely gifted writers whose stories represent literature's bright tomorrow. The pieces showcase a wide breadth of human experiences, representing numerous racial, ethnic, and cultural identities... Sharp, engrossing, and sure to leave readers excited about the future of the craft."--Booklist

"These dozen stories tend to the dark side, with rare moments of humor in a moody fictive landscape; they're thus just right for their time...A pleasure for fans of short fiction and a promise of good things to come from this year's roster of prizewinners."--Kirkus Reviews

Praise for PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2017

"Urgent fiction, from breakout talents."--Booklist

"A welcome addition to the run of established short story annuals, promising good work to come."--Kirkus Reviews

"A great overview of some of the year's most interesting fiction."--Vol. 1 Brooklyn