2019 Finalist Judges

Lesley Arimah, photo credit: Emily Baxter
LESLEY NNEKA ARIMAH was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work. She has been a finalist for a National Magazine Award and the Caine Prize, and a winner of the African Commonwealth Short Story Prize, an O. Henry Award, and other honors. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, GRANTA and has received support from The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Jerome Foundation, and MacDowell, among others. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and her debut collection What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky won the 2017 Kirkus Prize. She lives in Minneapolis and is working on a novel about you..


Bob_Shacochis, photo credit Kelly Lee Butler
BOB SHACOCHIS is the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize 2014 Award in Fiction for The Woman Who Lost Her Soul. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, the book was selected as a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Amazon.com, and others.

His first collection of stories, Easy in the Islands, won the National Book Award for First Fiction, and his second collection, The Next New World, was awarded the Prix de Rome from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Shacochis is also the author of the novel Swimming in the Volcano, a finalist for the National Book Award, and The Immaculate Invasion, a work of literary reportage that was a finalist for The New Yorker Book Award for Best Nonfiction of the Year.

Shacochis is a contributing editor at Outside, a former columnist for Gentleman’s Quarterly, and has served as a contributing editor for Harper’s and GQ. His op-eds on the US military, Haiti, and Florida politics have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He is a member of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Honorary Advisory Board.


Brando Skyhorse
BRANDO SKYHORSE’s debut novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park (Simon & Schuster, 2010), received the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award, and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The book was also a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. Take This Man: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, 2014) was an Amazon Best Book of the Month selection and named by Kirkus Reviews as one the Best Nonfiction Books of the year. Skyhorse has also co-edited an anthology, We Wear The Mask: 15 True Stories Of Passing in America (Beacon Press, 2017). He has been awarded fellowships at Ucross Foundation, the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, and was the 2014-2015 Jenny McKean Moore Writer-In-Washington at George Washington University. Skyhorse is an Associate Professor of English at Indiana University in Bloomington.


Helen Thorpe
HELEN THORPE is an award-winning journalist who lives in Denver, Colorado. Her first book, Just Like Us: The True Story Of Four Mexican Girls Coming Of Age In America, was published in 2009. It won the Colorado Book Award and was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post.

Her second book, Soldier Girls: The Battles Of Three Women At Home And At War, was published in 2014. TIME named it the number one nonfiction book of the year, and The New York Times said: “Through minute, almost claustrophobic, detail — using military and medical records, as well as therapists’ notes and personal correspondence — Thorpe achieves a staggering intimacy with her subjects.”

Her forthcoming book, The Newcomers, is about refugee resettlement. It celebrates the work of a high school English Language Acquisition teacher named Eddie Williams, whose classroom mirrors the global refugee crisis. The book is due out November 2017.



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