2015 National Book Awards
the 2015 National Book Awards Winners announced:
The 2015 National Book Awards Ceremony
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Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles: Stories (Random House)
Daniel Alarcón, Jeffery Renard Allen, Sarah Bagby, Laura Lippman, David L. Ulin
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House)
- Interview >
Diane Ackerman, Patricia Hill Collins, John D'Agata, Paul Holdengräber, Adrienne Mayor
Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus (Alfred A. Knopf)
- Interview >
Sherman Alexie, Willie Perdomo, Katha Pollitt, Tim Seibles, Jan Weissmiller
Young People's Literature
Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep (HarperCollins Children's Books)
- Interview >
Becky Albertalli, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Children's Books)
M.T. Anderson, Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (Candlewick Press)
Rae Carson, Walk on Earth a Stranger (Greenwillow/HarperCollins Children's Books)
Gary Paulsen, This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)
Ilyasah Shabazz, with Kekla Magoon, X: A Novel (Candlewick Press)
Young People's Literature JUDGES
John Joseph Adams, Teri Lesesne, Laura McNeal, G. Neri, Eliot Schrefer
you while writing your book?"
The Foundation conducted micro-interviews with the 2015 National Book Award Longlist honorees, asking, "In the process of writing your book, what did you discover, what, if anything, surprised you?" Here are some of their responses:
A Cure for Suicide
I wanted the book to be full of sadness, but also joy. I suppose I can be said to be amazed by the way those two quantities intertwine. It is too much to ask for, but when it comes we can be glad.
As a writer, what surprised me in the process of writing Refund is what surprises and thrills me, always, when writing fiction—how private and secret perceptions and thoughts can, when expressed, reach out and resonate in the thoughts of readers, I was surprised and happy, for example, when readers responded to the portrayal of family separation in "The Visit," or when they appreciated the mother in "The Third Child." The great goal of fiction, of this beautiful lie, is to understand and be understood.
The Turner House
When I first learned about Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, neighborhoods that no longer exist in Detroit that were home to black migrants from the south, I was unsure about addressing this history in my novel. I feared it was a diversion, that I'd spend months researching and it wouldn't make sense to include this information anywhere in the novel. Ultimately, I couldn't resist jumping down that research rabbit hole, and all the others that came after it. Now I think that pursuing the unknown or difficult elements of a story is my favorite part of being a writer.
Fortune Smiles: Stories
Because I research a lot, the surprising joy of discovery is always central to my writing. I love to fashion entire worlds in my stories—these I try to adorn with details gleaned from the real world and the emotions of life lived.
A Little Life
One of the less-discussed perks (if one could call it that) of writing fiction is that affords you a perfectly good excuse to ask people all sorts of nosy questions about their jobs. [...] I was surprised, again and again, by my interviewees' passion and eloquence and generosity, and fascinated by their descriptions of the various micro-societies in which they spent their working lives.
It was how many things I got right. [...] Which is SCARY, because I was born in 1964, the last year of the baby boom. That means most white Southerners are older than I am and grew up in a world where you could go for weeks and not see a black person, and that's what they told me when I asked them. Segregation totally worked. My recollections of the various legal stratagems used to dispossess black landowners were all too true.
Between the World and Me
I discovered how hard it was to make the abstract into the something visceral. My goal was to take numbers and stats and make people feel them with actual stories. It was to take scholarship and make it literature.
Almost everything surprised me, starting with such a diverse array of personal responses to Lincoln’s assassination. Of course I expected to find an outpouring of grief, but I didn’t expect to find such unmitigated fury among Lincoln’s mourners. Nor did I expect that so many mourners would blame the assassination squarely on the institution of slavery.
The Soul of an Octopus
In the process of writing this book, I was surprised at every turn: that octopuses taste with their skin. That most of their neurons are not in the brains, but in their arms. [...] But what surprised me most was that a creature so unlike us was clearly capable of forming bonds with humans, and that my relationships with each individual octopus changed forever the way I understand what it means to think, to feel and to know.
Tracy K. Smith
What did I discover? That many of the questions that are alive and felt--but often unspoken--in a poem suddenly, because I was working in prose, demanded to be explicitly addressed on the page, before the reader's eyes. [...] In unraveling those questions, I was surprised to discover just how much I wanted to talk about race, and how much anxiety still characterized my relationship to the faith I grew up in. Those themes surprised me, but once I submitted to them, they became some of the story's central concerns.
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
I was surprised again and again in the writing of this book—poem by poem I was surprised with all these strange and weird arrivals, these little events or moments that I never ever would have predicted. That's part of the delight, for me, of writing poems.
Scattered at Sea
Surprise in writing refreshes the brain, makes novel ways of thinking and feeling possible. In this book, within individual poems, what felt like hairpin turns I hadn't seen coming sometimes took me aback, as did voices that popped up seemingly out of nowhere, or unanticipated emotions...emotions that sometimes ran counter to the ones I'd planned for the poem to traffic in.
A Stranger's Mirror
A surprise more after writing the book than during its writing: there are several poems directly or indirectly about Syrian exiles and refugees… At the time I wrote the poems, I knew several Syrian political refugees, but their situation was not a subject of general public discourse in Europe and the United States. Now, unfortunately—with half a country's population fleeing carnage and seeking refuge—it is.
Every poem surprises me. If it doesn’t, it’s not yet a poem. If it doesn’t have to, it doesn’t need to be a poem. [...] My muse wants to investigate the full kaleidoscope of a human life. But I never have any idea of how that will happen. The poem itself tells me. That’s where the surprise lives.
Bright Dead Things
What surprised me the most during this process was how difficult it was to write about happiness. Finding a language for joy was intensely hard. It was easier to go into the pitch-black caves, to plummet into the colder, harder core of the self, than to risk admitting that there is pleasure in this life, that being alive in and of itself is an ecstatic thing.
Elegy for a Broken Machine
One of the things that surprised me as I worked on the book was how often poems about the failing body wanted to also be about youth: about my father and my father-in-law in their primes... young, strong, and beautiful. So that was another discovery: that the elegy is made of lament and praise. Lament for the lost king, and praise for the kingdom he once was.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips
What surprised me was how much [writing in the Colorado mountains] reminded me of a city and how much, as a writer born in the city, I found more and more of myself in that natural world, how estranging and yet familiar it felt, and how there was nothing I wanted to do but read and write and look out onto that world because I knew I was witnessing a part of heaven and the refusal of heaven and I was fortunate and enhanced to hear it talk back to me.
Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts
I had no idea where I was going when I wrote “A Cup of Water Turns itself into a Rose.” For quite a while I’d wanted to write a long poem. I pillaged my notebooks and my abandoned work for passages that might press me further. I just wrote things down, forbidding myself from reading what I wrote for several days, so I could be surprised into writing more. [...] It’s my favorite poem of all my poems, in part because its composition was an unfolding act of surprise, then discovery, then pleasure.
Symphony for the City of the Dead
I discovered a whole new world while writing this book—which is why it took so many years to finish. ...I had no idea how the Russians see World War II, and how different their experience of the war was from Western Europe's. They talk not about the Second World War, but about the "Great Patriotic War," and it starts for them not in 1939, but in 1941. Around half the total casualties in what we call WWII were Soviet citizens. [...] Seventy thousand Soviet cities, towns, and villages were wiped completely off the map. We need to understand the depth of that historic sacrifice if we're ever going to understand modern Russia and its people.
Walk on Earth a Stranger
My protagonist, Lee, dresses as a boy for much of the book. When I began writing, I expected she'd be tarred and feathered and chased off with pitchforks if she were ever discovered. It was the Victorian era, after all. I was surprised to discover this couldn't be further from the truth. Necessity breeds solution, as they say, and hardships along the trail forced pioneers to embrace extreme pragmatism about gender roles.
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
In researching the Vietnam War and the Pentagon Papers I learned about an incident I think is truly shocking, even in the context of a story full of secrets and lies. With the 1968 election approaching, Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, successfully undermined peace talks aimed at ending the war. Just days before the election, the talks were finally making progress, and Nixon feared a peace deal would rob him of his best issue – the Democrats’ failure in Vietnam. So Nixon secretly urged the president of South Vietnam to refuse to go to Paris for talks, promising that, if elected, he’d be a better friend to the South than Democrats had been. It worked – and the talks stalled again. And the most incredible part was that Lyndon Johnson knew all about it, thanks to wiretaps and intercepted cables!
2015 NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS LONGLISTS TO BE REVEALED By the New Yorker
New York, NY (August 25, 2015) The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, will partner with The New Yorker to exclusively reveal this year’s National Book Awards Longlists, ten books each in the categories of Young People's Literature, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction, selected by four panels of expert judges independent of the Foundation and The New Yorker.
“We are very pleased to be working with the National Book Foundation to highlight some of the best writing in America this year,” said New Yorker editor David Remnick. “Great writing is a hallmark of both institutions.”
The Longlist announcements will be revealed on newyorker.com:
Young People's Literature on Monday, September 14th at 9 a.m. (EDT)
Poetry on Tuesday, September 15th at 9 a.m.
Nonfiction on Wednesday, September 16th at 9 a.m.
Fiction on Thursday, September 17th at 9 a.m.
Previous Longlist announcements were made in partnership with The Daily Beast and The New York Times.
“The New Yorker and the National Book Awards are natural partners,” said the Foundation’s chairman, David Steinberger, CEO of Perseus Books Group. “This collaboration affords us a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the long, fruitful relationship between New Yorker writers and the Awards.”
While this is the first time the National Book Awards and The New Yorker have formally partnered, there is a long history of New Yorker writers being recognized by the National Book Foundation. The past three Winners of the Award in Nonfiction, Katherine Boo, George Packer, and Evan Osnos, for example, are all known for their work in The New Yorker.
The National Book Award Finalists will be announced on October 14th; Winners will be announced at a gala dinner and ceremony in New York on November 18th. For more information on the Awards and a list of this year’s judges, visit www.nationalbook.org.
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The National Book Foundation's mission is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America. In addition to the National Book Awards, for which it is best known, the Foundation's programs include 5 Under 35, a celebration of emerging fiction writers selected by former National Book Award Finalists and Winners; the National Book Awards Teen Press Conference, an opportunity for New York City students to interview the current National Book Award Finalists in Young People's Literature; NBA on Campus, a partnership that brings National Book Award authors to colleges across the country; the Innovations in Reading Prize, awarded to individuals and institutions that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading; and BookUp, a writer-led, after-school reading program for middle-school students.
The National Book Award is one of the nation's most prestigious literary prizes and has a stellar record of identifying and rewarding quality writing. In 1950, William Carlos Williams was the first Winner in Poetry, the following year William Faulkner was honored in Fiction, and so on through the years. Many previous Winners of the National Book Award are now firmly established in the canon of American literature, such as Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, Jonathan Franzen, Denis Johnson, Joyce Carol Oates, and Adrienne Rich.
The New Yorker is a national weekly magazine that offers a signature mix of reporting and commentary on politics, foreign affairs, business, technology, popular culture, and the arts, along with humor, fiction, poetry, and cartoons. Founded in 1925, The New Yorker publishes the best writers of its time and has received more National Magazine Awards than any other magazine, for its groundbreaking reporting, authoritative analysis, and creative inspiration. The New Yorker takes readers beyond the weekly print magazine with the web, mobile, tablet, social media, and signature events.