Tag: national book award

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Here Are the 2018 National Book Award Winners

A fixture of the literary world since 1950, the National Book award honors the strongest writing in America. Qualifications necessary to win the award are simple: the book has to have been published no earlier than December 1st of the previous year, and the author must be a U.S. citizen by any possible means. Then there’s the most important rule of all—it has to be the best. Judges have now announced this year’s five winners across five categories.

 

Fiction: The Friend

 

'The Friend' by Sigrid Nunez

 

Sigrid Nunez has always been a literary heavy-hitter. A winner of the Whiting Writer’s Award, Berlin Prize Fellowship, and the Rome Prize in literature, Nunez has also been a professor at a veritable collection of top institutions—Columbia, Princeton, and The New School. The Friend was one of the most-anticipated releases of 2018, topping Buzzfeed, Bustle, BookRiot, and PopSugar’s lists.

 

After a woman loses her closest friend, she’s left with only two things: the burden of her grief… and his massive, traumatized dog. In her self-imposed isolation, the woman spirals into obsession over the dog’s care—the one thing that she can still control. It’s possible this could heal her… it’s possible it could tear her apart. Enter the realm of magical thinking. Nunez writes: “what we miss – what we lose and what we mourn – isn’t it this that makes us who, deep down, we truly are? To say nothing of what we wanted in life but never got to have.”

 

Nonfiction: The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke

 

'The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke' by Jeffrey C. Stewart

 

Jeffrey C. Stewart‘s groundbreaking biography chronicles the life and influence of black intellectual Alain Locke, the oft-cited originator of the Harlem Renaissance. Locke’s achievements are innumerable, but historians can list more than a few—he became the first black Rhodes Scholar in 1907, earned a PhD from Harvard University, and quickly became the philosophy chair at Howard University. As a member of the homosexual community, Locke also embraced the progressive and avant-garde.

 

His anthology The New Negro, a collection of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction, remains a landmark historical work. Biographer Stewart is also an impressive character—a Yale PhD recipient currently serving as a professor at University of California at Santa Barbara. He has also taught at Harvard University and Howard University. Stewart’s The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke uses newly-available primary sources and oral interviews to pay tribute to one of history’s greatest minds. Stewart also draws attention to thinkers academia often neglects—the gay and gender-nonconforming activists of the Harlem Renaissance. 

 

Poetry: Indecency

 

'Indecency' by Justin Phillip Reed

 

Justin Phillip Reed‘s collection, Indecency, is as intimate as it is confrontational. Reed blends the political and personal in his exploration of sexuality, masculinity, and the prison-industrial complex. A graduate of the top-10 MFA program at the Washington University in St. Louis, Reed considers “any kind of history—especially concerning Black folks—to always be on the edge of being obliterated” in cities like his own St. Louis, with ‘progress’ often dismantling already-thriving communities of color.

 

A “most indecent black queer poet” himself, he probes topics ranging from race to sex in poems titled “Performing a Warped Masculinity En Route to the Metro” and other biting things. According to Reed, the cover art is, in fact, a photo of bird sh!t.

 

Translation: The Emissary

 

'The Emissary' by Yoko Tawada, translated by Margaret Mitsutani

 

The first winner of the Book Award’s newest category of Translated Literature, American-born Margaret Mitsutani has been living in Japan since the late 1970s. Mitsutani won the National Book Award for her translation of Yoko Tadawa‘s The Emissarya satirical depiction of an isolationist Japan in the aftermath of unspecified nuclear catastrophe. Tokyo is a radioactive no-man’s-land, and society moves to outer cities like Osaka and Hokkaido, where the robust elderly occupy all government positions—a clear commentary on Japan’s declining birthrate.

 

Japan’s sealed borders further serve to comment on the sweeping populist and nationalist movements of recent years. Critics describe Mitsutani’s translation as “playful, powerful, and wise.”

 

Young Adult People’s Literature: The Poet X

 

'The Poet X' by Elizabeth Acevedo

 

Winning a National Book Award for her debut novel is hardly Elizabeth Acevedo‘s only significant accomplishment. As a National Poetry Slam Champion, Acevedo clearly conveys her passion and expert knowledge in prizewinning novel The Poet X. Xiomara Batista is an anomaly in her Harlem community, born to seriously advanced-in-years parents who tout her birth as the kind of miracle their religious devotion incurs—the kind of miracle Xiomara has never believed in. When the rules of religion silence Xiomara, she uses slam poetry to regain her voice.

 

The novel has a true poet’s touch: it contains three sections of verse, all with Biblical titles juxtaposing the structure of religion with Xiomara’s disbelief. Acevedo says that her experience as an eighth-grade teacher inspired her to write the novel. One Latina student said of contemporary literature: “These books aren’t about us. [These characters] don’t look like us… they don’t walk through the world like us. These ain’t our books.” Now, Acevedo has created a book that is.

 

 

Featured Image Via Vulture.com / Images Via Amazon.com

National Book Award statues

National Book Foundation Adds First New Award Category in Twenty-Two Years

The National Book Foundation has just announced a fifth National Book Award category: The National Book Award for Translated Literature. A new category hasn’t been added since 1996 when the foundation awarded the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature to Victor Martinez for Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida.

 

Because this marks a pretty major step for the National Book Foundation, a unanimous vote was needed from the Board of Directors. They got all the votes, and Chairman of the Board of Directors, David Steinberger, said in a statement “We could not be more pleased to take this step. We now have the opportunity to recognize exceptional books that are written anywhere in the world, and to encourage new voices and perspectives to become part of our national discourse.”

 

National Book Award gold stamp first place

Image Via the National Book Foundation

 

After twenty-two years, the question of “Why now?” arises. The political atmosphere is obviously very tense when it comes to immigration and xenophobia runs rampant in some parts of the country, so that seems to be part of the foundation’s mission. After all, they are an organization dedicated to enriching the country’s literature.

 

Some insight can be gleaned from the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, Lisa Lucas. In a statement, Lucas said:

 

As the Foundation further expands its purview and work, it’s important that we continue to promote reading habits that reach widely across genre, subject, and geography. We are a nation of immigrants, and we should never stop seeking connection and insight from the myriad cultures that consistently influence and inspire us. We want American readers to deeply value an inclusive, big-picture point of view, and the National Book Award for Translated Literature is part of a commitment to that principle. The addition of this award lends crucial visibility to works that have the power to touch us as American readers in search of broadened perspective.

 

That sums everything up pretty nicely. Though it is a national organization, the literary world is, obviously, international. Personally, of my top favorite authors, I might include one American writer. However, if it weren’t for American translator Jay Rubin, for example, we wouldn’t be able to read many of Haruki Murakami’s works.

 

The work of translators is indispensable to a reader’s life. If you are reading a work in translation, then, though it may not seem it, about half the work is being done by the translator. Capturing an author’s voice and aesthetic in a new language is immensely challenging and is an artistic medium independent of writing. It’s extremely exciting that one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world is now awarding translators for their contributions to book life.

 

Submissions for the National Book Award for Translated Literature will be open on March 7th, the same time as the other categories (Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature). The longlist will be announced on September 10th, and the finalists will be announced on October 10th. The inaugural winners (both writer and translator) of the National Book Award for Translated Literature will be announced at the National Book Awards Ceremony and Dinner on November 14th. Winners in each category receive a bronze sculpture and $10,000. Winners of the Translated Literature award will split the money evenly between them.

 

Who would you like to see win the National Book Award for Translated Literature? Think globally!

 

Feature Image Via the National Book Foundation

National Book Award

15 of 20 National Book Award Finalists Are Female!

Female authors are killing it at the moment, with all five of the recently announced Five Under Thirty Five also women. Now, the National Book Award finalists have been announced and among the twenty finalists, throughout four categories, are fifteen women. That is pretty incredible. 

 

The finalists in the fiction category are:

 

Elliot AckermanDark at the Crossing

Lisa KoThe Leavers

Min Jin LeePachinko 

Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

Jesmyn WardSing, Unburied, Sing

 

The finalists in the Young People’s Literature Category are: 

 

Elana K. ArnoldWhat Girls Are Made of

Robin BenwayFar from the Tree

Erika L. SánchezI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Rita Williams-Garcia, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

Ibi ZoboiAmerican Street

 

Check out all the categories on the full list here

 

Annie Proulx, previously won a National Book Award for The Shipping News, will be honored this year with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters while the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community will be bestowed upon president and CEO of Scholastic, Dick Robinson.

 

The category winners will be announced on November 15th in New York City.

 

Featured Image Via NPR