Jennifer Clement

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Jennifer Clement
Clement at the Gothenburg Book Fair in 2016
Clement at the Gothenburg Book Fair in 2016
Greenwich, Connecticut
Alma materBA New York University (1981) MFA University of Southern Maine (2014)
Notable worksWidow Basquiat, A True Story Based On Lies, Prayers for the Stolen
Notable awardsNational Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Fellowship in Literature, The Canongate Prize

Jennifer Clement is an American-Mexican author. In 2015, she was elected as the first woman president of PEN International, an organization that was founded in 1921.[1] She also served as President of PEN Mexico from 2009 to 2012.[2] Clement's books have been translated into 30 languages.

Clement is the author of four novels: Gun Love, Prayers for the Stolen, A True Story Based on Lies and The Poison That Fascinates. She also wrote the cult classic memoir Widow Basquiat (on the painter Jean Michel Basquiat and New York City in the early 80s) and has published several volumes of poetry including 'The Next Stranger' with an introduction by W.S. Merwin.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1960 in Greenwich, Connecticut, Clement moved in 1961 with her family to Mexico City, where she later attended Edron Academy. She moved to the United States to finish high school at Cranbrook Kingswood School, before studying English Literature and Anthropology at New York University. She received her MFA from the University of Southern Maine.[3]

She is the co-director and founder, with her sister Barbara Sibley, of the San Miguel Poetry Week. She lives in Mexico City, Mexico.


Clement's first book, Widow Basquiat, was published in 2000 and soon became hailed as a must read.[4] Glenn O'Brien in Artforum wrote "Magical…Widow Basquiat conjures real characters, a real time and real place. It's not theory – it's representation. … The life of Basquiat … is a joyous lightning bolt when it is described in true detail, as it is in Clement's extraordinary as-told-to poem." Her first novel A True Story Based on lies was finalist in the Orange Prize for Fiction[5]

Prayers for the Stolen, came out in 2014 and became a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice Book, First Selection for National Reading Group Month's Great Group Reads and appeared internationally on many "Best Books of the Year" lists, including The Irish Times.[6]

She is also the author of several books of poetry: The Next Stranger with an introduction by W.S. Merwin (1993), Newton's Sailor, Lady of the Broom (2002) and Jennifer Clement: New and Selected Poems (2008). Her prize-winning story A Salamander-Child is published as an art book with work by the Mexican painter Gustavo Monroy.

Clement was awarded the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Fellowship for Literature in 2012 for her novel Prayers for the Stolen and was honored with The Sara Curry Humanitarian Award for that work. She is also the recipient of the UK's Canongate Prize. Clement is a Santa Maddalena Fellow, the MacDowell Colony's Robert and Stephanie Olmsted Fellow for 2007-08 and, in 2015, was chosen to be a City of Asylum Resident in Pittsburgh, PA. In 2016, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for her new novel Gun Love.[7][8]

She is a member of Mexico's prestigious Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte. Jennifer Clement, along with her sister Barbara Sibley, is the founder and director The San Miguel Poetry Week.[9]

As President of PEN Mexico she spoke extensively about the safety of journalists in Mexico and was instrumental in raising the issue and changing the law so that the killing of a journalist became a federal crime.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Gun Love: A New York Times Editor's Choice Book, 2018
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, USA, 2016
  • HIPGiver Honor,(honoring Latinos who have made exceptional contributions to their communities), USA, 2016
  • Hermitage Residency,USA, 2016
  • Grand Prix des Lectrices Lyceenes de ELLE(sponsored by ELLE Magazine, the French Ministry of Education and Maison des écrivains et de la littérature)France, 2015
  • PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Finalist, USA, 2015
  • City of Asylum Resident, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, 2015
  • Community College of Baltimore County, Essex - Prayers for the Stolen:selected novel for the Community Book Connection Program 2015-2106
  • The Irish Times Best Books List 2014
  • The Sara Curry Humanitarian Award, 2014
  • Santa Maddalena Fellowship, Italy, 2014
  • Shortlist Prix Femina, France, 2014
  • Prayers for the Stolen: A New York Times Editor's Choice Book, 2014
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Fellowship in Fiction, 2012
  • President of PEN MEXICO 2009-2012
  • The Sandburg-Auden-Stein Poet-in-Residence, Olivet College, 2011
  • Writer-in-Residence PEN Vlaanderen, Antwerp, Belgium, 2010
  • The Thornton Writer-in-Residence, Lynchburg College, VA, 2009
  • Robert and Stephanie Olmsted Fellow, 2007-2008 (awarded by The MacDowell Colony)
  • MacDowell Colony Fellowship, 2007
  • Residency in Berlin granted by the Goethe Institute and Literarisches Colloquium Berlin, 2004
  • Finalist in the Orange Prize for Fiction, 2002, UK (for A True Story Based on Lies)
  • The Canongate Prize for New Writing 2001, UK (judged by The Herald, The Sunday Herald, Waterstone's, Channel Four BBC, and Canongate Books)
  • The Bookseller's Choice List,2000,UK, (for the memoir Widow Basquiat).
  • U.S.-Mexico Fund for Culture (Conaculta/Fonca/Bancomer/The Rockefeller Foundation) grant in support of The San Miguel Poetry Week.
  • Mexico's "Sistema Nacional de Creadores" grant, FONCA, 2000-2006 and 2012 to present.
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
John Ralston Saul
International President of PEN International
Succeeded by


  1. ^ "Mexican-American writer, Jennifer Clement, elected first woman president to lead PEN International as John Ralston Saul steps down after six years". The PEN. 15 October 2015.
  2. ^ "An Interview with PEN Mexico President Jennifer Clement". Sampsonia Way. 8 February 2013.
  3. ^ Hamilton, Geoff; Jones, Brian (2009). "Clement, Jennifer p.68". Encyclopedia of Contemporary Writers and Their Work. Infobase Publishing. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  4. ^ "From Muse To Outcast, A Woman Comes Of Age In 'Widow Basquiat'". NPR. 9 February 2014.
  5. ^ "Jennifer Clement: 'I always have believed that literature can change the world'". 10 February 2014.
  6. ^ "Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement – review". The Guardian. 13 February 2014.
  7. ^ "JENNIFER CLEMENT". Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  8. ^ "JENNIFER CLEMENT". Guggenheim Foundation. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Faculty Jennifer Clement". San Miguel Poetry. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  10. ^ "Jennifer Clement: The Power of Her Pen". NextTribe. 17 May 2017.