Tiya Miles

Tiya Miles was the solitary writer of African descent to win the contested awards at the Pen America Awards 2022 on February 28, 2022. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o was also awarded the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.

PEN America is an organization that works to defend and celebrate free expression in the United States through the advancement of literature and human rights since it was founded in 1922. They hold annual awards celebrating outstanding voices in translation, fiction, poetry, science writing, essay, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and drama since 1963.

For 2022, many writers of African descent were in the running for the $350,000 prize money on offer with longlisted nominees revealed on December 15 before the finalists became known on January 27.

The winners were announced at a ceremony in New York City with Seth Meyer providing hosting duties. In the many awards, the only writer of African descent who won was in the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction category which is worth US$10,000 to the winner. This was Tiya Miles for her book, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family’s Keepsake (Random House).

The PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature which had been conferred to Ngugi Wa Thiong’o was also awarded on the evening. The elder Ngugi sent his children Nducu, Mukoma, and Wanjiku Ngugi who are also writers to receive it on his behalf. A pre-recorded video of Ngũgĩ delivering his acceptance speech was played during the ceremony.

Watch the whole ceremony below. You may watch the handing out of the Ngugi prize at 45 minutes.

Watch the video and speech from Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and the remarks from his writer children by clicking here.