2019 National Book Awards Longlist for Nonfiction

September 2019

News

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The ten contenders for the National Book Award for Nonfiction

The National Book Foundation announced the Longlist for the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Finalists will be revealed on October 8.

The 2019 Nonfiction Longlist represents an exciting range of voices and subjects, illuminating new perspectives on political, natural, cultural, historical, and personal experiences. Hanif Abdurraqib’s history of A Tribe Called Quest is the first book showcasing hip-hop to make the list, and chef Iliana Regan’s memoir brings food writing back to the National Book Awards celebration for the first time since Julia Child won in 1980 for Current Interest – Hardcover (a discontinued category). The list includes three debut titles, and only Greg Grandin, who was a Finalist for Nonfiction in 2009, has been previously honored by the National Book Awards. The Longlisted authors have earned recognition from numerous other prizes, including the Bancroft Prize, the National Magazine Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the James Beard Award. These authors have received fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony. In addition, their writing has previously appeared in a variety of publications, including The Atlantic, Esquire, The Los Angeles Times, MTV News, The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, O Magazine, The Washington Post, and The London Review of Books.

Four memoirs have been Longlisted, showcasing a range of human experience from life-changing journeys in Central America to over 40 years of solitary confinement in one of the nation’s most brutal prisons. In What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance, an unexpected encounter with a stranger brings poet Carolyn Forché to El Salvador where she is exposed to a country on the precipice of war. Focused on her family’s property in New Orleans, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells the story of how a family, a home, and a city has weathered tragedy, catastrophe, and inequality. In Burn the Place: A Memoir, self-taught chef Iliana Regan shares her story of growing up gay in an intolerant town, finding her identity through food, and launching a Michelin-starred career. Written with Leslie George, Solitary revisits the four decades Albert Woodfox spent in solitary confinement for a crime he didn’t commit, and how he—and the others in the Angola 3—turned injustice into a story of resistance and survival.

Two titles blend personal history with cultural history. In Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, Hanif Abdurraqib uses the pioneering hip-hop group as a lens to interrogate the historical representation and rise of black culture as he came of age in the 1990s. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, the seventh book by Ojibwe author David Treuer, introduces a counter-narrative of Native American history, contemporary culture, and survival, documenting how the culture has endured forced assimilation, land seizures, and conscription in the US military.

Several other Longlisted titles are concerned with political history and divisive movements in our past that inform our present. In Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, Patrick Radden Keefe uses recently released interviews with Irish Republican Army members to resolve a notorious disappearance and reveal wounds that have yet to heal since the Troubles. Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a scholar of black history and contemporary social justice movements, documents how the end of redlining in the 1960s and 1970s inspired new, devious forms of injustice and exploitation targeting low-income black families. Greg Grandin’s The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America reckons with the historical context of President Trump’s proposed border wall—and how conflicts are boiling over from within.

The one collection of essays on the 2019 Longlist is Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Thick: And Other Essays, which offers genre-bending analyses on everything from Trump rallies to beauty and black womanhood in America.

Publishers submitted a total of 600 books for the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction. The judges for Nonfiction are Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Carolyn Kellogg, Mark Laframboise, Kiese Laymon, and Jeff Sharlet (Chair). These distinguished judges were given the charge of selecting what they deem to be the best books of the year. Their decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors; deliberations are strictly confidential.

The National Book Award Finalists will be announced on October 8, and the Winners announced at the invitation-only National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on November 20 in New York City.

2019 LONGLIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR NONFICTION:

Hanif Abdurraqib, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest
University of Texas Press

Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House
Grove Press / Grove Atlantic

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Thick: And Other Essays
The New Press

Carolyn Forché, What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance
Penguin Press / Penguin Random House

Greg Grandin, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America
Metropolitan Books / Macmillan Publishers

Patrick Radden Keefe, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
Doubleday / Penguin Random House

Iliana Regan, Burn the Place: A Memoir
Agate Midway / Agate Publishing, Inc.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership
The University of North Carolina Press

David Treuer, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House

Albert Woodfox with Leslie George, Solitary
Grove Press / Grove Atlantic

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