Barbara Kingsolver announces Susan Nussbaum as Winner of 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize

Live from the Bellwether Prize Announcement at BEA 2012

New York City, June 5, 2012—PEN American Center, the largest branch of the world’s oldest literary and human rights organization, joined Barbara Kingsolver, founder of the Bellwether Prize, and Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing, to announce Susan Nussbaum as the winner of the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Nussbaum receives $25,000 and a publishing contract with Algonquin Books for her manuscript Good Kings Bad Kings.

 This is the first year that PEN is partnering with Kingsolver and Algonquin Books. “We are very excited to be partnering with Barbara Kingsolver in recognizing the rise of a bright, new literary talent whose work reflects an engagement with the type of social issues that PEN American Center tackles daily,” said PEN President Peter Godwin. “This important prize is a fitting addition to our roster of other distinguished awards, which will raise awareness across all the literary genres we celebrate.”

 “The characters in Good Kings Bad Kings made me laugh, over and over again, and cry and cheer,” said Barbara Kingsolver. “This is fiction at its best. The story’s sharp eye allows no one to take shelter, and it doesn’t flinch; it is simply and breathtakingly honest. A stunning accomplishment.”

 Good Kings Bad Kings follows the lives of residents at the ILLC, an institution for juveniles with disabilities, where friendships are forged, trust is built, and love affairs begin, all despite an atmosphere of neglect and abuse. In this alliance the residents of ILLC ultimately find the strength to resist their mistreatment and fight back. With humor and an authentic eye, Good Kings Bad Kings tells the story of their struggle for dignity and self-determination.

A lifelong Chicagoresident, Nussbaum’s plays have been produced at many theaters. Her play Mishuganismo is included in the anthology Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out and her play No One As Nasty is included in Beyond Victims and Villains: Contemporary Plays by Playwrights with Disabilities. In 2008 she was cited by the Utne Reader as one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” for her work with girls with disabilities.

 Susan Nussbaum traveled to New York Cityfor the announcement made this morning by Barbara Kingsolver at BookExpo America in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Kingsolver and Nussbaum were joined by PEN president Peter Godwin, Algonquin Books, and previous Bellwether winners Heidi Durrow (The Girl Who Fell from the Sky) and Hillary Jordan (Mudbound) at the press conference for editors, publishers, agents, press, booksellers, and librarians from around the country.

 The Bellwether Prize, which was established in 2000 and is maintained through a generous endowment by Barbara Kingsolver, promotes fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. Now administered by PEN American Center, the first PEN/Bellwether Prize will be conferred on Susan Nussbaum at PEN’s Literary Awards Ceremony at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City on October 23, 2012.

 Previous Bellwether Prize recipients include Donna M. Gershten’s Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth in 2000 (HarperCollins); Gayle Brandeis’s The Book of Dead Birds in 2002 (HarperCollins); Marjorie Kowalski Cole’s Correcting the Landscape in 2004 (HarperCollins), Hillary Jordan’s Mudbound in 2006 (Algonquin Books), Heidi Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky  in 2008 (Algonquin Books), and Naomi Benaron’s Running the Rift in 2010 (Algonquin Books).

The PEN Literary Awards are the most comprehensive in the United States. Each year, with the help of its partners and supporters, PEN awards more than $150,000 to writers, editors, and translators. More information about the PEN Awards can be found at

About PEN American Center

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of PEN International, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. International PEN was founded in 1921 to dispel national, ethnic, and racial tensions and to promote understanding among all countries. PEN American Center, founded a year later, works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. Its two thousand distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and advancement of human rights of such past members as James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Arthur Miller, Marianne Moore, Eugene O’Neill, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck. To learn more about the PEN American Center, please visit

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2 comments on “Barbara Kingsolver announces Susan Nussbaum as Winner of 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize

  1. you chose a brilliant woman

  2. you chose a brilliant woman

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