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Kevin Young

(Photo by Ayca Christman)

Kevin Young, poet and professor at Emory University, has won the 2013 PEN Open Book Award for The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf Press). The prize, awarded by the PEN American Center to an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color, was created to advance diversity in the literary community. The honor comes with a cash award of $5,000.

“Here’s what happens when an acclaimed poet makes his first foray into nonfiction: madcap manifesto and rhapsodic reportage create a formidable blend of scholarship and memoir that tackles cultural and personal history in one breath,” wrote judges Cyrus Cassells, Porochista Khakpour and Tiphanie Yanique. “Young goes far beyond just being a documentarian of American black identity — he shows us how black identity is indispensable to American culture.”

A second winner of the award this year is Gina Apostol for her novel Gun Dealers’ Daughter (W.W. Norton & Co.). Other 2013 PEN Literary Awards recipients include Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo, former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, playwright Larry Kramer, Mother Jones magazine co-editors Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery, and debut novelist Sergio De La Pava, whose A Naked Singularity was originally self-published before being picked up by the University of Chicago Press.

Young and 15 other winners will be honored at a ceremony October 21 at CUNY Graduate Center in New York.

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