Aspen Words unveiled the shortlist for its annual literary prize, with Dawnie Walton and Kirstin Valdez Quade among the authors in contention for the $35,000 award.

Walton was named a finalist for The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, her debut novel about a 1970s Black rock musician. A critic for Kirkus called the book “an intelligently executed love letter to Black female empowerment and the world of rock music.”

Quade made the shortlist for The Five Wounds. The novel won the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and was a finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel.

Omar El Akkad was named a finalist for What Strange Paradise, along with Hala Alyan for The Arsonists’ City and Myriam J.A. Chancy for What Storm, What Thunder.

“Several of the…finalists speak to issues in the current zeitgeist, while others remind us of disasters from the recent past that define our present and demand renewed attention,” Aspen Words wrote on Twitter.

The Aspen Words Literary Prize, established in 2018, is given annually to an author for “an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.” Past winners have included Mohsin Hamid for Exit West, Tayari Jones for An American Marriage, Christy Lefteri for The Beekeeper of Aleppo, and Louise Erdrich for The Night Watchman.

The winner of this year’s award will be announced on April 21.

Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.