Isabella Hammad’s Enter Ghost is the winner of this year’s Aspen Words Literary Prize, given annually to “an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.”

Hammad’s novel, published last April by Grove, follows Sonia Nasir, an actor in London who returns to Haifa, Israel, to visit her sister, and agrees to perform in a local production of Hamlet in the West Bank. In a starred review, a critic for Kirkus called the book “a thorough and thoughtful exploration of the role of art in the political arena.” Hammad’s novel was also announced this week as a finalist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

In their citation, the jury for the prize said, “Exploring themes of diaspora, displacement and the search for identity, Hammad constructs a world rich in texture and emotion. A poignant narrative of resilience and the quest for belonging, Enter Ghost is a dazzling story of self-discovery against the backdrop of displacement.”

Hammad was announced as the winner at a ceremony Thursday evening at the Morgan Library in New York. In her acceptance speech, she said, “These last six and a half months have changed me very deeply, and I know that I am not alone in feeling that way, and that this is not only because I am Palestinian. The Israelis have destroyed every single university in Gaza. They have destroyed libraries. They have assassinated writers and journalists and university professors.…We need an end to the siege, a release of all political prisoners, an end to segregation and ethnic and religious supremacy, an end to illegal military occupation, and Palestinian self-determination. May we see liberation in our lifetimes.”

The Aspen Words Literary Prize was established in 2018 and first awarded to Mohsin Hamid for Exit West. Other previous winners include Louise Erdrich for The Night Watchman and Kamil Jan Kochai for The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories.

Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.