Press Release: 2020 Saroyan Prize Shortlist

The 2020 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing Shortlist Announced

The Stanford Libraries has announced the shortlist for the ninth William Saroyan International Prize for Writing (Saroyan Prize), a Prize intended to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan literary legacy of originality, vitality and stylistic innovation. The Prize recognizes newly published works of both fiction and non-fiction. $5,000 will be awarded in each category. Winners and finalists will be announced in late summer/early fall. The Saroyan Prize shortlist is as follows:


  • Friday Black (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018)
         by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
  •  Tonic and Balm (Shade Mountain Press, 2019)
         by Stephanie Allen

  • Some Trick (New Directions, 2019)
         by Helen DeWitt


Congratulations to the authors and publishers!

The Saroyan Prize is a biennial competition jointly awarded by the Stanford Libraries and the William Saroyan Foundation. It commemorates the life, legacy and intentions of William Saroyan - author, artist, dramatist, composer - and is intended to encourage new or emerging writers, rather than to recognize established literary figures. The 2018 winners were Hernan Diaz (In the Distance, Coffee House Press, 2017) for the fiction category, and Robert Moor (On Trails: An Exploration, Simon & Schuster, 2016) for the non-fiction category.

The Prize engages over 200 Stanford alumni and friends who participate as readers and judges. "In this time of uncertainty, we are inspired by the hundreds of authors who submitted their work and we are grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who helped keep the 2020 Prize viable," said Michael Keller, vice provost and university librarian at Stanford.

This year's distinguished judging panel for fiction consists of award-winning authors Sumbul Ali-Karamali, Elizabeth McKenzie and Patrick Hunt. The non-fiction panel includes author and 2005 Saroyan Prize winner, Mark Arax, author and 2016 Saroyan Prize winner Lori Jakiela, and Hank Saroyan, writer, performer, and nephew of William Saroyan. More information on our judges can be found here.

Literary fiction, including novels, short story collections, and drama, are eligible for the Saroyan Fiction Prize. Literary non-fiction of any length is eligible for the Saroyan Non-fiction Prize, most particularly writing in the Saroyan tradition: memoirs, portraits and excursions into neighborhood and community. Entries in either category are limited to English language publications that are available for individual purchase by the general public.

William Saroyan, an American writer and playwright, is a Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award winner best known for his short stories about humorous experiences of immigrant families and children in California. Much of Saroyan's other work is clearly autobiographical, although similar in style and technique to fiction. Saroyan was the fourth child of Armenian immigrants. He battled his way through poverty and rose to literary prominence in the early 1930s when national magazines began publishing his short stories, such as The Daring Young Man On The Flying TrapezeMy Name Is AramInhale & ExhaleThree Times Three, and Peace, It's Wonderful. Saroyan soon moved on to writing plays for Broadway and screenplays for Hollywood, including: My Heart's in the HighlandsThe Time of Your LifeThe Beautiful People, and The Human Comedy.


Contact: Sonia Lee
650-736-9538 (office)

Monday, June 1, 2020