Ta-Nehisi Coates picked up another award for his best-selling, much-discussed book about race in America at the PEN Literary Awards on Monday evening in New York. “Between the World and Me” (Spiegel & Grau), a best-seller that won a National Book Award in November, won the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, which carries with it a $10,000 prize.
The evening’s biggest prize went to Mia Alvar, whose “In the Country” (Alfred A. Knopf) took the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. The book is a collection of nine short stories about characters in the Philippines and in the Filipino diaspora.
Other awards included the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, given to “Thunder and Lightning: Weather, Past, Present, Future” (Random House) by Lauren Redniss, and the PEN Open Book Award, for a work of literature published by an author of color, which went to Rick Barot for his poetry collection “Chord” (Sarabande). A lifetime achievement award was given to Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize-winning author of “The Bluest Eye,” “Beloved” and many other novels about the African-American experience.
Morrison was not present at the ceremony, held at The New School in Manhattan. Coates sent his father, Paul Coates, to accept the award on his behalf.
PEN America is an organization of writers who work to ensure free expression around the world. In 2016, PEN will give 19 awards, fellowships and grants, totaling nearly $200,000.