“Poets and writers drive our country’s vibrant literary culture, and their dedication to their craft continues to give solace to readers, students, and communities across the United States,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “We are honored to extend our funding for the Literary Arts Emergency Fund, and to support these artists and the literary organizations that elevate their work.”
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen many millions more people turn to poetry—they’re coming to Poets.org to read poems and attending online readings,” said Jennifer Benka, President & Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets. “Poetry, as the poet Edward Hirsch once wrote, ‘companions’ us. The Academy is pleased to be able to offer support to those organizations whose poetry publications and programs bring comfort and courage in this time.”
“Mission-driven literary magazines and presses form the bedrock of the publishing ecosystem, fostering an environment where literary artists and their work can flourish,” said Mary Gannon, Executive Director of CLMP. “By supporting these dedicated publishers through the ongoing challenges they face, we ensure that the diverse array of voices they amplify will continue to be heard.”
“Nonprofit literary arts organizations champion books, and their transformative ability to connect readers of all ages and backgrounds,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “These organizations do this work hand-in-hand with writers inside of schools and prisons, on stages and in community centers, in all 50 states. What an honor it is to help uplift such vital work and strive to address the deep financial need across the field, which is even more profound this year than last.”
The application portal will open in November 2021 and close in January 2022. Literary organizations and publishers may view guidelines at https://literaryartsemergencyfund.submittable.com/submit once the portal opens in November. The Academy of American Poets, CLMP, and the National Book Foundation will also host an information session on how to apply in the fall. Applicants will be notified and grants will be distributed in April 2022.
All 2021 National Book Awards events, including the 72nd National Book Awards Ceremony on November 17, will be held online.
The National Book Foundation announced that the 72nd National Book Awards Ceremony on November 17 will be held virtually in light of public health concerns and ongoing uncertainty related to the coronavirus.
“Although we were cautiously optimistic about the opportunity to gather, the National Book Foundation Board and staff have carefully considered the options for this year’s National Book Awards and closely monitored best health and safety practices associated with COVID-19,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the Board of Directors. “The National Book Awards have always been a unique—and sizeable—event, with authors, publishers, and guests traveling from all over the country to attend. Given the current reality of the ongoing global pandemic, this year’s National Book Awards Ceremony will be a fully virtual event to best protect the health and safety of the book community. Regardless of this shift in event plans, there is so much to celebrate. The 2021 National Book Awards Longlists have recently been announced, and we’re thrilled to celebrate those titles and authors this fall, and their incredible contributions to the field.”
The National Book Foundation will continue to work with Really Useful Media, the production team of the virtual 2020 National Book Awards Ceremony and National Book Awards Finalist Reading, for all virtual elements. The National Book Foundation will once again broadcast the National Book Awards Ceremony on the Foundation’s website at nationalbook.org/awards, YouTube, and Facebook.
“With thanks to our judges’ efforts during yet another difficult year, we have a new list of 50 books to uplift, inspire, and challenge us,” said Ruth Dickey, the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “The National Book Awards are a chance to honor books, reading, and the broad community of book lovers. We have all had to adapt and change over the past eighteen months, and books continue to provide a sense of comfort and connection, opening the world to us all even during these uncertain times. We look forward to championing the work of writers and translators at this year’s virtual National Book Awards Ceremony.”
The National Book Awards Finalist Reading, in partnership with The New School, will take place virtually on Tuesday, November 9 and feature readings from all 25 Finalists’ books. The Teen Press Conference will be held virtually on Wednesday, November 10. The NBF’s 5 Under 35 Ceremony has moved permanently to the Spring, and will honor two years of emerging fiction writers at a combined in-person ceremony in Spring 2022.
At the center of the National Book Foundation is its mission to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture. Since the first National Book Awards in 1950, the literary community has gathered to celebrate literary excellence, commemorating new talent alongside established writers and artists. The proceeds from the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner power the National Book Foundation’s year-round education and public programs.
Over the course of the global pandemic, the National Book Foundation has continued its commitment to champion literature and to protect, stimulate, and promote discourse in American culture, working with program partners to find the best and safest ways to reach readers. The fifth year of Book Rich Environments’ book distribution to children and families in public housing communities continued with over 215,000 books from Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, Candlewick, HarperCollins, Sourcebooks, and Simon & Schuster delivered to 43 communities in 25 states. BookUp, an after-school program for middle and high school students expanded virtually, as did Raising Readers, which empowers adults who work with and raise children to expand their own love of books and reading.
The National Book Foundation also presented its national public programming—which brings NBA-honored authors to colleges, libraries, book festivals, and performance venues for topical conversations—on-screen. In 2020-2021, NBF Presents presented 26 virtual events—including themed series Literature for Justice and Eat, Drink & Be Literary—that featured over 50 honored authors and reached over 15,000 audience members. NBF distributed thousands of associated books to readers and students at partner colleges, prisons, and detention centers nationwide.
The National Book Foundation looks forward to recognizing the power and importance of this year’s honored books, and celebrating with as many readers as possible around the world.
The National Book Foundation today announced its annual 5 Under 35 honorees, a selection of five fiction writers under the age of 35 whose debut work promises to leave a lasting impression on the literary landscape. Each honoree was selected by a National Book Award Winner, Finalist, or Longlisted author, or by an author previously recognized by the 5 Under 35 program. 5 Under 35 honorees are writers from around the world, under the age of 35, who have published their first book of fiction within the last five years.
“Each year, we take great pleasure in honoring five authors whose debut titles provide a first look at their exceptional talent as fiction writers,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “Their remarkable books are an achievement, and it’s a privilege to welcome these authors into the National Book Foundation family and to ensure their work reaches an even wider audience.”
The 2021 honorees’ books include three novels, one collection of short stories, and, for the first time ever, a graphic novel. Within their captivating debuts, the authors reimagine history, and contemplate identity, race, and religion. The cohort has been honored by the Tennessee Williams Fiction Prize, the National Endowment for the Arts, the BBC National Short Story Award, the Pushcart Prize, and the Elizabeth George Foundation. Honorees’ work has been widely published, including by The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Granta, and Ploughshares.
“We are grateful to our knowledgeable selectors who read broadly with such insight and energy,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “Our 16th cohort of 5 Under 35 honorees join a tremendous group of writers, and it is a joy to recognize debut work that displays such expert craft and beautiful storytelling. We look forward to sharing these important new voices with readers everywhere.”
This year’s 5 Under 35 selectors are 2020 National Book Award Finalist Rumaan Alam, 2020 National Book Award Longlister and 2016 5 Under 35 honoree Brit Bennett, 2017 National Book Award Longlister Charmaine Craig, 2021 and 2014 National Book Award Longlister and 1996 Finalist Elizabeth McCracken, and 2019 5 Under 35 honoree Bryan Washington. Their decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors; deliberations are strictly confidential.
Previous Honorees include Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Lesley Nneka Arimah, K-Ming Chang, Anelise Chen, Yaa Gyasi, Danielle Evans, Isabella Hammad, Lydia Kiesling, Raven Leilani, Johannes Lichtman, Valeria Luiselli, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Karen Russell, Claire Vaye Watkins, Ashley Wurzbacher, Tiphanie Yanique, and C Pam Zhang, as well as National Book Award Finalists Akwaeke Emezi, Angela Flournoy, and Téa Obreht, 2014 National Book Award Winner Phil Klay, and 2020 National Book Award Winner Charles Yu.
The 5 Under 35 Ceremony has been moved permanently to the spring. The 2022 5 Under 35 honorees will be announced in Spring 2022, and both the 2021 and 2022 cohorts will be honored at an invitation-only ceremony in Spring 2022. 5 Under 35 is sponsored by the Amazon Literary Partnership. Each honoree will receive a $1,000 prize.
The ten contenders for the National Book Award for Fiction
The National Book Foundation announced the Longlist for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction. The Finalists in all five categories will be revealed on October 5.
The 2021 Fiction Longlist includes writers at all stages of their careers, and features three debut novels among the ten titles. Four authors have been previously honored by the National Book Award for Fiction. Richard Powers was Longlisted in 2014, a Finalist in 1993, and the Winner of the National Book Award in 2006. Lauren Groff is a two-time National Book Award Finalist, in 2015 and in 2018. Elizabeth McCracken has also been honored twice: Longlisted in 2014 and a Finalist in 1996. Anthony Doerr was a National Book Award Finalist in 2014. One author, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, was Longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry in 2020 with her collection The Age of Phillis.
The authors on the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction Longlist have earned recognition from numerous national and international prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, The Story Prize, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the PEN/O. Henry Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, the Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine, and The Bridge/Il Ponte Book Award. Among these ten writers are MacArthur, Guggenheim, Lannan, and Santa Maddalena fellows. In addition, their writing has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Guardian, Essence, The Paris Review, and more.
Jason Mott, inspired by his own dislocating book tour, fictionalizes the experience in Hell of a Book. A surrealist author’s tour converges with the story of a Black child growing up in the rural South—and a possibly imaginary counterpart—for a novel that grapples with racism, reality, and what it is like to be Black in America.
Several of the Longlisted novels delve into displacement and the concept of home. Jakob Guanzon’s debut novel Abundance follows a father and son for a pivotal 24 hours after they’re evicted from their trailer on New Years’ Eve. Each chapter announces the amount of cash the father has in his pocket—beginning at McDonald’s and finishing at Walmart—and exposes the deep inequities faced by Americans today. In Lauren Groff’s latest novel, Matrix, Marie is deemed unfit for marriage, banished from France, and becomes the prioress of a poverty-stricken abbey in England. At first homesick and reluctant to carry out her role, Marie pushes the boundaries of what is proper for a woman of her time and dedicates herself to protecting her new home, her fellow nuns, and her own status. After the death of her father and her mother’s sudden return to Singapore, the unnamed interpreter of Katie Kitamura’s Intimacies leaves New York and comes to the International Court of the United Nations in The Hague, Netherlands. A woman pulled between languages and identities, the narrator confronts the moral complexities of interpretation and looks for a place to finally call home.
The titular character of Zorrie by Laird Hunt spends all but a few months of her life in rural Indiana. Zorrie’s life and home is shaped by the events of the 20th century, from her Depression-era childhood to the fallout of World War II. An ode to the rural Midwest, this tightly woven novel captures dreams, losses, and resilience. Ailey, the protagonist of Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s debut novel, The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois, traces her family history across two centuries from the small Georgia town where her ancestors were enslaved. A sweeping epic, Ailey challenges her foremothers’ expectations and comes to terms with her own mixed identity.
Robert Jones Jr.’s debut novel, The Prophets, is the Black queer love story of two enslaved men on a Deep South plantation who find tenderness in the face of oppression. Across his cast of characters, Jones writes with rich emotional interiority and offers an alternative history of freedom and joy. The lives of families—chosen and biological—are challenged, strengthened, and reshaped in The Souvenir Museum, Elizabeth McCracken’s collection of interwoven short stories. Each story centers ordinary moments between couples, parents, and siblings that shed light on love, loneliness, and everyday experiences.
Two Longlisted titles contemplate human-led destruction and call for stewardship—for our planet and others. Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land is set in fifteenth century Constantinople, a small town in modern-day USA, and an interstellar ship in the future. In this far-reaching epic that spans nearly six centuries, young people coming of age in troubled societies are transported and instructed by the same long-lost book. In Bewilderment by Richard Powers, a widowed astrobiologist sets his sight on an experimental treatment to keep his neurodivergent son off psychoactive drugs as they both mourn the loss of Aly, wife, mother, and animal rights activist. In an intimate reflection of life after death, Powers explores the bond between a father and son, Earth’s environmental vulnerability, and the planets beyond our own.
Publishers submitted a total of 415 books for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction. The judges for Fiction are Luis Alberto Urrea (Chair), Alan Michael Parker, Emily Pullen, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, and Charles Yu. Judge’s decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors and deliberations are strictly confidential. Winners in all categories will be announced live at the National Book Awards Ceremony on November 17.
2021 Longlist for the National Book Award for Fiction:
The ten contenders for the National Book Award for Nonfiction
The National Book Foundation announced the Longlist for the 2021 National Book Award for Nonfiction. The Finalists in all five categories will be revealed on October 5.
The 2021 Nonfiction Longlist includes emerging and established writers, and represents an exceptionally wide range of subjects and genres, from American culture and politics, environmentalism, history, current social issues, to works of memoir, and beyond. Hanif Abdurraqib is the sole author who has been previously honored by the National Book Awards. The Longlisted authors have earned numerous recognitions, including a MacArthur Fellowship, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing, among many others. In addition, their writing has previously appeared in a variety of publications, including The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Gastronomica, Chicago Tribune, BuzzFeed, and O: The Oprah Magazine.
Two books on the list tell the story of American culture—who creates it, who benefits from it, and its impact around the world. Hanif Abdurraqib layers personal experiences, sociopolitical critiques, and celebration of Black genius in A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance. Reflecting on decades of culture, Abdurraqib considers how Black artistry is viewed, consumed, and exploited both by non-Black Americans and communities outside of the United States. Pulitzer Prize–winner Louis Menand explores music, art, and literature from 1945 to 1965 in The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War. Menand details how the United States’ democracy, diversity of ideas, and liberty transformed our culture and fueled a creative movement that influenced the world.
In a journey to his ancestral home of southwest Kansas, Lucas Bessire reckons with his family’s legacy and the impending loss of a natural resource in Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains. Bessire addresses the depletion of the Ogallala aquifer, a source of water and life in the American Great Plains across millennia, and demands we all take responsibility for a more sustainable future. Grace M. Cho’s Tastes Like War is part food memoir and part sociological study. In search for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia, Cho cooks her grandmother’s recipes to nourish her ailing mother, examines the long-term and far-reaching effects of mental illness, and documents how the body carries the effects of war, colonialism, xenophobia, and the immigrant experience.
Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together combines data-driven research, history, and stories from Americans across demographic backgrounds. An economist and political commentator, McGhee identifies the racism at the core of the United States’ most pressing societal problems and provides optimistic solutions to inequality that will benefit all Americans.
Several Longlisted titles are concerned with moments in our past that inform our present. Nicole Eustace recounts the 1722 crime that led to tense confrontations between colonists and Indigenous peoples in Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America. The overlooked murder case of a Native American hunter and eventual trial illuminate dynamic debates about forgiveness and reconciliation that challenged the meaning of justice in the pre-Revolutionary War era. The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship by Deborah Willis tells the often-unacknowledged stories of Black Union soldiers through photographs, handwritten captions, letters, and other artifacts. Willis creates a visual narrative that connects themes of love, loss, bondage, and patriotism, and fills a necessary gap in our understanding of Black American contributions during the Civil War. On the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Scott Ellsworth documents how the murder of hundreds of Black Americans and the destruction of their homes, churches, and businesses in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District was deliberately excluded from United States history. In The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice, Ellsworth uncovers missing records and photographs, recounts the search for the unmarked mass graves of the murdered, and voices the need for recognition and reparations for the victims, survivors, and their descendants.
Two titles on the 2021 Longlist explore the legacy of slavery in the United States, from institutional and personal perspectives. Tiya Miles’s All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake is the emotionally rich story of a cotton bag that Rose, an enslaved woman who was sold and ripped away from her daughter, filled with mementos. The artifact provides a jumping off point for this meticulously researched exploration of ecology, history, survival, and familial love. In How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, Clint Smith visits nine sites linked to slavery, from Angola Prison in Louisiana to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation, to Gorée Island off the coast of Senegal to the financial district of New York City. Smith reckons with how to educate visitors about these institutions, and grapples with the ongoing vestiges of slavery.
Publishers submitted a total of 679 books for the 2021 National Book Award for Nonfiction. The judges for Nonfiction are Nell Painter (Chair), Eula Biss, Aaron John Curtis, Kate Tuttle, and Jerald Walker. Judge’s decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors and deliberations are strictly confidential. Winners in all categories will be announced live at the National Book Awards Ceremony on November 17.
2021 Longlist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction:
The ten contenders for the National Book Award for Poetry
The National Book Foundation announced the Longlist for the 2021 National Book Award for Poetry. The Finalists in all five categories will be revealed on October 5.
Nine of the ten poets on the 2021 Longlist are first-time National Book Award honorees. The exception is Forrest Gander, who was Longlisted for the National Book Award in 2018 for his poetry collection Be With. Two of the poets have been honored by the Pulitzer Prize, and two have received Whiting Awards. Other prizes that have recognized the Longlisted poets include: the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, and the Pushcart Prize. One of the books comes from a university press and nine come from independent publishers, including Parlor Press, with its first title recognized by the National Book Awards. The list features poets in all stages of their careers, including four debut poetry collections.
Two of the debut collections consider what it means to feel like a foreigner in the United States. Threa Almontaser’s collection, The Wild Fox of Yemen, juxtaposes Muslim American narratives in post-9/11 New York with family histories in Yemen. Shifting between Arabic and English, the poems question if assimilation is possible for those who are visibly foreign, and offers language—its manipulation, mistranslation, and memory—as a tool for survival. Ghost Letters by Baba Badji uses a personal epistolary form, blending English, French, Arabic, and Wolof into an interrogation of what it means to be Senegalese, Black, and an outsider in America. The letters, written for a “ghost mother,” travel the African diaspora across distance, race, and colonialism.
Forrest Gander draws upon the five landscapes of Sangam poetics—forest, pastoral, sea, mountain, and wasteland—in Twice Alive. Gander addresses personal and ecological trauma, drawing from his background in geology to explore the interconnectivity of the environment and the human condition. In The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void, Jackie Wang documents her dreams to process collective trauma for both living and non-living creatures and to find hope in the sunflower still able to sprout.
Three works examine the intersection of historical events, politics, and the personal. In Floaters, Martín Espada celebrates his late activist father, condemns government inaction in the aftermath of Hurricane María, and pays tribute to the migrants who drowned while attempting to cross the Rio Grande. In Sho, Douglas Kearney plays with Black vernacular and performance to investigate race, masculinity, and current events. Desiree C. Bailey’s What Noise Against the Cane, winner of the 2020 Yale Younger Poets Prize, honors ancestors of the Haitian Revolution and mines the complexities of home for a Black woman in contemporary America.
Several collections on the Longlist contemplate mourning the loss of a loved one. CM Burroughs’s second collection, Master Suffering, is a vulnerable exploration of grief and female bodies after the untimely death of a beloved sister. Rooted in a sense of displacement and loss, The Vault by Andrés Cerpa contains fragments, letters, and poems that capture how to build a life after the death of a parent. In A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure, Hoa Nguyen grapples with all she does not know about her mother land, her mother tongue, and her mother.
Publishers submitted a total of 290 books for the 2021 National Book Award for Poetry. The judges for Poetry are A. Van Jordan (Chair), Don Mee Choi, Natalie Diaz, Matthea Harvey, and Ilya Kaminsky. Judge’s decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors and deliberations are strictly confidential. Winners in all categories will be announced live at the National Book Awards Ceremony on November 17.
2021 Longlist for the National Book Award for Poetry:
The ten contenders for the National Book Award for Translated Literature
The National Book Foundation today announced the Longlist for the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature. The Finalists in all five categories will be revealed on October 5.
This year’s Translated Literature Longlist includes ten books originally published in seven different languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. The majority of the authors and translators on the 2021 Longlist are newcomers to the National Book Awards, though three of the honorees have previously been recognized: Leri Price was a Finalist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature in 2019, and Nona Fernández and Natasha Wimmer were Longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature in 2019. The authors and translators on this year’s Longlist have been recognized by numerous international prizes, including the International Booker Prize, the Prix Mondial Cino del Duca, the Bolshaya Kniga Award, the Mao Dun Literature Prize, the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize, the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize, the Valle Inclán prize, and the Best Translated Book Award.
Two Longlisted titles consider political violence and its effects on society and survivors. Peach Blossom Paradise, written by Ge Fei and translated from the Chinese by Canaan Morse, blends history and mythology to tell the story of Xiumi, a young woman struggling to uphold personal autonomy in China during the Hundred Days’ Reform. The backdrop of Fei’s novel reveals the tension between idealists and the establishment during times of political unrest. In Nona Fernández’s The Twilight Zone, a member of the Chilean secret police confesses to participating in some of the worst crimes committed by Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, sparking the narrator’s life-long obsession with the “man who tortured people.” The novel, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer, is an examination of crime, pop culture, and resistance.
Memory’s value and fallibility is at the center of two Longlisted titles. An Inventory of Losses, written by Judith Schalansky and translated from the German by Jackie Smith, catalogs twelve items that have disappeared—from the extinct Caspian tiger to the sunken isle of Tuanaki—as a study of the past and its effect on our present. Ancestral history is pieced together through photographs, postcards, diaries, and other mementos after the death of the narrator’s aunt in Maria Stepanova’s In Memory of Memory. Translated from the Russian by Sasha Dugdale, the book confronts one family’s lore and its intersection with a century of Russian history.
Translated from the Korean by Joungmin Lee Comfort and Sora Kim-Russell, On the Origin of Species and Other Stories by Bo-Young Kim adds science fiction and fantasy to this year’s Longlist. Kim’s genre-defying collection—of stories and one essay—features humane portraits of humans and non-humans alike and contemplate contemporary social and environmental issues.
Two titles hinge on the arrival of an unexpected guest. In Maryse Condé’s Waiting for the Waters to Rise, an obstetrician far from home, Babakar, has his loneliness disrupted by an orphaned child whose mother died during childbirth. Translated from the French by Richard Philcox, the book follows Babakar and his friends as they search for Anaïs’s family in a story of friendship, migration, and survival. In the midst of the offseason at a South Korean resort, a young French Korean woman working as a hotel receptionist befriends a hotel guest in Elisa Shua Dusapin’s debut novel, Winter in Sokcho. Translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins, the protagonist learns what it means to be seen through the guest’s illustrations of her hometown.
With rich imagination, two books translated from the Spanish are portals into the minds of their characters. Rabbit Island, a collection of short stories by Elvira Navarro and translated by Christina MacSweeney, depicts characters shaped by nightmares and navigates the politics of class, gender, and social change. Written by Benjamín Labatut and translated by Adrian Nathan West, When We Cease to Understand the World is a fictional account of the lives of renowned scientists and mathematicians, including Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger. Both Navarro and Labatut blur the lines between genius and insanity for their characters and for their readers.
Finally, Planet of Clay by Samar Yazbek tells the story of a young girl named Rima who chases freedom through books, secret planets, and art in the midst of the Syrian Civil War. Translated from the Arabic by Leri Price, the book juxtaposes the fantasies and realities of Rima’s interior and exterior lives.
Publishers submitted a total of 164 books for the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature. The judges for Translated Literature are Stephen Snyder (Chair), Jessie Chaffee, Sergio de la Pava, Madhu H. Kaza, and Achy Obejas. Judge’s decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors and deliberations are strictly confidential. Winners in all categories will be announced live at the National Book Awards Ceremony on November 17.
2021 Longlist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature:
The ten contenders for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
The National Book Foundation announced the Longlist for the 2021 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (YPL). The Finalists in all five categories will be revealed on October 5.
This year’s Longlist includes two authors who have been previously honored by the National Book Awards. Kekla Magoon was Longlisted for Young People’s Literature in 2015, and Anna-Marie McLemore was Longlisted for Young People’s Literature in 2016. Authors appearing on this year’s Longlist have been honored by the Newbery Award, the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the Stonewall Book Award, the William C. Morris Young Adult Debut Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the NAACP Image Award, among many others.
The 2021 YPL Longlist showcases titles across genres, topics, and styles with authors based across the United States. Through verse, illustration, and prose, these books address gender and sexual identity, race and politics, familial history and global events, and the magic woven in the fabric of our own communities.
Darcie Little Badger draws from Lipan Apache storytelling traditions in A Snake Falls to Earth. Our world and a land of spirits and monsters collide, as a teenage girl from Texas and a cottonmouth person from the Reflecting World must work together in this magical tale. In the graphic novel The Legend of Auntie Po, Shing Yin Khor combines folktales, magical realism, and historical fiction. Mei, a Chinese American teenager, retells the myth of Paul Bunyan, and navigates the intersections of privilege, race, and immigration in the years following the Chinese Exclusion Act through characters that reflect her and the working-class people in her community. Two teenagers are linked by trauma in The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore. Through this contemporary reimaging of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” McLemore examines friendship, healing, and survival.
Two coming-of-age stories explore gender, sexuality, and acceptance. Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare, Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo follows its 17-year-old protagonist, Lily, as she finds first love and fights to claim her queer identity. Eleven-year-old Bug has two mysteries at hand—a haunted house and an evolving gender identity—in the transformative summer between elementary and middle school. In Too Bright to See, Kyle Lukoff tells a ghost story and an identity story through Bug’s journey to self-realization and self-acceptance.
While the majority of this year’s Longlist titles are written in prose, two novels-in-verse use that form to explore the complex and multidimensional lives of their protagonists. After losing her family in a tragic car accident, Moth feels guilty and alone until she meets Sani, a boy who also seeks to understand his family’s past in Amber McBride’s Me (Moth). With guidance from their ancestors, they take a road trip across the country that eases their pain. Safia Elhillo’s Home Is Not a Country follows Nima, a teenager stuck between two cultures and two lives—hers, and the one that could have been—in a story about family, identity, and finding a way home.
Several Longlisted titles contextualize moments in US history and their resonance today. Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre written by Carole Boston Weatherford introduces the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre to young readers, accompanied by vibrant illustrations by Floyd Cooper. Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon highlights the Black Panther Party’s prioritization of justice and community care in spite of constant harassment at the hands of the US government, and connects the Party’s principles to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo is an extensively researched history of an anti-Asian hate crime and its aftermath, including the incitement of the Asian American civil rights movement.
Publishers submitted a total of 344 books for the 2021 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The judges for Young People’s Literature are Cathryn Mercier (Chair), Pablo Cartaya, Traci Chee, Leslie Connor, and Ibi Zoboi. Judge’s decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors and deliberations are strictly confidential. Winners in all categories will be announced live at the National Book Awards Ceremony on November 17.
2021 Longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature:
The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, today announced that it will award Karen Tei Yamashita with the 2021 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL), presented by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Yamashita, whose I Hotel was a Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, is being honored for her expansive and innovative genre-defying oeuvre. She is the author of eight books, including Tropic of Orange, Letters to Memory, and most recently, Sansei and Sensibility, and numerous plays, selected and collected in Anime Wong: Fictions of Performance.
Yamashita is the recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Rockefeller Playwright-in-Residence Fellowship, John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, and US Artists’ Ford Foundation Fellowship. Her awards include the California Book Award, Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Award, and multiple Association for Asian American Studies Book Awards.
“A bold and groundbreaking writer, Yamashita’s deeply creative body of work has made an enduring impact on our literary landscape,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “Whether it’s an evocative exploration of cities, collaborative performance productions, or connecting the plots of Jane Austen to Japanese American life, her work reaches across time, country, and culture to offer readers a powerfully complex guide to our world.”
Born in Oakland in 1951, Yamashita grew up in Los Angeles. After attending Carleton College and Waseda University in Tokyo, she studied the extensive history of Japanese immigration to Brazil, worked on translations and screenplays, and produced a number of dramatic works. Coffee House Press, a nonprofit independent press based in Minneapolis, published her first novel, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, in 1991 and has published each of her books since. She currently serves as Professor Emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she has taught literature and creative writing since 1997.
“Through adept crafting, passionate research, and timely narratives, Yamashita defines, and re-defines, again and again, what storytelling can do,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “In her books, she compels and challenges readers to engage with ideas, identities, and complicated worlds that mirror the complexity of life. We are honored to celebrate her extraordinary literary accomplishments and center her contributions to American culture.”
Yamashita is the thirty-fourth recipient of the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, which was created in 1988 to recognize a lifetime of literary achievement. Previous recipients include Walter Mosley, Edmund White, Isabel Allende, Annie Proulx, Robert A. Caro, John Ashbery, Judy Blume, Don DeLillo, Joan Didion, E.L. Doctorow, Maxine Hong Kingston, Stephen King, Ursula K. Le Guin, Elmore Leonard, Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison, and Adrienne Rich. Nominations for the DCAL medal are made by former National Book Award Winners, Finalists, judges, and other writers and literary professionals from around the country. The final selection is made by the National Book Foundation’s Board of Directors. Recipients of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters receive $10,000 and a solid brass medal.
ABOUT KAREN TEI YAMASHITA
Karen Tei Yamashita is the internationally acclaimed author of eight books, all published by Coffee House Press, including I Hotel, Anime Wong, Sansei and Sensibility, and Through the Arc of the Rain Forest. In prose brimming with electric narrative energy, she employs humor, politics, sardonic wit, and lush polyvocality to invite readers into her nuanced but accessible literary worlds; her writing evinces a breathtaking capacity to transform conventions in genre, voice, intertextuality, and characterization, grounded in the skillful application of traditional literary techniques. She currently serves as Professor Emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she has taught literature and creative writing for many years.
In her various roles as a public intellectual—author, lecturer, teacher, mentor—Yamashita models a deep desire to understand and to embrace life as she finds it. Her narratives roam across three continents, drawing from personal history and the artistic, cultural, and historical cartographies of Asia, Britain and Europe, and the Americas. Her body of work has been credited with transforming the approach toward Asian American literary and cultural studies from one that is U.S.-centric to one that is hemispheric and transnational. Yamashita’s creativity and prescience—seen in her protean body of work—helped to bring about that sea change in American literature, too.
Yamashita was born on January 8, 1951, in Oakland, California, to Hiroshi John Yamashita and Asako Sakai, both survivors of incarceration at the Topaz internment camp during World War II. When she was a year old, Yamashita’s family moved to Los Angeles, where she grew up with her sister, Jane. Yamashita later attended Carleton College and studied at Waseda University in Tokyo, earning degrees in English and Japanese literature, and graduating Phi Beta Kappa.
After college, Yamashita was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to travel to São Paulo for research on the extensive history of Japanese immigration to Brazil. There, Yamashita formed a study of Japanese Brazilian agricultural life, conducting interviews with Japanese immigrants, their descendants, and members of a commune. She remained in Brazil for a decade, during which she began writing fiction and plays, married Brazilian architect Ronaldo Lopes de Oliveira, and had two children, Jane and Jon. On her return to Los Angeles in 1984, Yamashita worked on translations and screenplays, and produced dramatic works such as Hannah Kusoh: An American Butoh,Tokyo Carmen vs. L.A. Carmen, and Noh Bozos, which she has linked to the content and style of her novel Tropic of Orange.
Yamashita has received numerous prestigious accolades for her creative works, including a Rockefeller Playwright-in-Residence Fellowship for Omen: An American Kabuki, the 1991 American Book Award, and the 1992 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for her first novel, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest. Her 2010 novel, I Hotel, received an American Book Award, California Book Award, Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and an Association for Asian American Studies Book Award, and was a Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction. In 2019, Yamashita received a second Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for her documentary memoir, Letters to Memory.
From 2012 to 2015, Yamashita was co-holder, with Bettina Aptheker, of the UC Presidential Chair in Feminist Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. In 2017, Yamashita delivered a keynote address at the inaugural Asian American Literature Festival, hosted by the Asian Pacific American Center, the Smithsonian, and the Library of Congress. In 2018, she received a VONA – Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation Tribute, and in 2019, a John Dos Passos Prize for Literature. The Karen Tei Yamashita Papers, which archive and document her career, are housed at the McHenry Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Karen Tei Yamashita’s work forges experience and imagination into exhilarating literary experiments both revolutionary and deeply tied to history. Drawing together matters artistic, intellectual, and political into some of the most innovative and adventurous literary art produced today, Yamashita has established herself as a leading voice in American letters. She lives in Santa Cruz, California, where she is working on Santa Cruz Nori—half original stories by Yamashita, half essays on the liminal, occupied lands of U.S. history, edited by Angie Sijun Lou—forthcoming from Coffee House Press.
ABOUT VIET THANH NGUYEN
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and numerous other awards. His most recent publication is the sequel to The Sympathizer, The Committed. His other books are a short story collection, The Refugees; Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award in General Nonfiction); and Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. He has also published Chicken of the Sea, a children’s book written in collaboration with his six-year-old son, Ellison. He is a University Professor, the Aerol Arnold Chair of English, and a Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity, and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, he is also a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and the editor of The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives.