LeVar Burton, Actor and Education Advocate, to Host 74th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner

The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, today announced LeVar Burton, renowned actor, director, and author, will host the 74th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner on November 15, 2023 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.

“LeVar Burton has introduced multiple generations of young people to the joys of reading, and is a fearless advocate for book access, especially amidst the alarming rise in book banning across the country,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “We are delighted to welcome LeVar back onto the National Book Awards stage, alongside special guest Oprah Winfrey, to champion the power of literature as the host this year’s Ceremony & Benefit Dinner.”

“I’m a big believer in the power of the written word, and am proud to stand alongside the National Book Foundation to celebrate exceptional storytelling and the Foundation’s mission to make books accessible to everyone, everywhere,” said LeVar Burton. “It’s an honor to return as host of the biggest night for books, especially in a moment when the freedom to read is at risk and literature both needs and deserves our recognition and support.”

Actor, director, producer, writer, and podcaster LeVar Burton is recognized globally for his role as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge in the iconic Star Trek: The Next Generation television and film series; his breakout role as Kunta Kinte in the ABC miniseries Roots; and as the host and executive producer of the PBS children’s television series, Reading Rainbow. Burton continues to inspire new generations of readers with his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads, in which he reads and discusses a work of short fiction in every episode. He is also the award-winning author of Aftermath, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, and A Kids Book About Imagination. In 2019, Burton hosted the 70th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner. Most recently, Burton served as the Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week 2023, an annual week-long series of events that draws attention to the rising movement of book censorship in the United States and highlights the importance of free and open access to information for readers of all ages. The National Book Foundation is a Banned Books Week coalition member.

“We are honored to have LeVar Burton—a longtime friend and ally of the National Book Foundation—join us to celebrate the power of stories,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “From his role as the beloved host of Reading Rainbow to his new documentary The Right to Read, Burton’s unique and contagious passion for books has inspired countless readers. This year—more than ever before—books are at risk, and we are tremendously proud to have a champion like Burton celebrate authors, translators, and readers everywhere as the host of the 2023 National Book Awards.”

The National Book Award Winners in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature will be announced live on Wednesday, November 15. The five Finalists in each category were selected by a distinguished panel of judges, and were announced earlier this month by the New York Times. The invitation-only 74th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner, featuring special guest Oprah Winfrey, will also include the presentation of two lifetime achievement awards. Rita Dove, National Book Award Finalist and Pulitzer Prize winning poet, will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by National Book Award Finalist Jericho Brown, and Paul Yamazaki, principal buyer at City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, presented by Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan. Readers everywhere can register for the National Book Awards Ceremony broadcast at nationalbook.org/awards.

In addition to announcing the National Book Award Winners, the Benefit Dinner drives funding for the Foundation’s year-round educational and public programming to connect readers of all ages, in every corner of the country, with books and authors. For more information about the 74th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner, including sponsorship opportunities, please visit the National Book Foundation website.

ABOUT LEVAR BURTON:

LeVar Burton is an actor, director, producer, and podcaster whose decades-long body of work includes Roots, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Reading Rainbow. He is the honored recipient of seven NAACP Awards, a Peabody Award, a Grammy Award, and 15 Emmy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Inaugural Children’s & Family Emmys.

As a lifelong literacy advocate, Burton has dedicated decades to encouraging children to read. In 2023, Burton premiered his first documentary, The Right to Read, a film that positions the literacy crisis in America as a civil rights issue. The Right to Read was an official selection at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and SXSW EDU.

Burton continues to exercise his passion for storytelling as the award-winning author of Aftermath, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, and A Kids Book About Imagination. He launched his first book club with Fable, a digital book club community, and partnered with Masterclass, to share the power of storytelling.

His production company, LeVar Burton Entertainment (LBE), develops projects in the film, television, podcasting, and publishing space with the mission to share stories that fosters empathy, champions diversity, and builds community.

Now in its 12th season, the enormously popular LeVar Burton Reads podcast has over 175 episodes in its catalog, boasting 25 million downloads. LBE’s first Kids & Family podcast, Sound Detectives, will debut on Stitcher in July of 2023.

As a pop culture icon, Burton has the unique ability to reach across all ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups–communicating to a large fan base that is highly engaged and motivated to embrace his message.

Image: LeVar Burton. (Photo credit: Sarah Coulter for Paramount+)

 

2023 National Book Awards Finalists Announced

Twenty-five Finalists to contend for National Book Awards in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature


The 25 Finalists for the 2023 National Book Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature were announced with the New York Times. The five Finalists in each category were selected by a distinguished panel of judges, and were advanced from the Longlists announced in September with The New Yorker.

Between the five categories, there are four writers and one translator who have been previously honored by the National Book Foundation: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah was a 2018 5 Under 35 honoree; Pilar Quintana and Lisa Dillman were Finalists for Translated Literature in 2020; Justin Torres was a 2012 5 Under 35 honoree; and Monica Youn was a Finalist for Poetry in 2010 and a Longlister for Poetry in 2016. All of the Finalists in the categories of Nonfiction and Young People’s Literature are first-time National Book Award honorees. Three of the 25 Finalists are debuts, and 11 independent, nonprofit, and university publishers are represented.

The 2023 Finalists will read from their work at the annual National Book Awards Finalist Reading, hosted by writer and comedian Amber Ruffin, on the evening of Tuesday, November 14 at NYU Skirball. The Finalist Reading is presented in partnership with the National Book Foundation and the NYU Creative Writing Program, and tickets are available for purchase on NYU Skirball’s website. On the morning of November 14, the annual National Book Awards Teen Press Conference for middle and high school students, featuring the Finalists in the category of Young People’s Literature, will be hosted by author Dhonielle Clayton. Both events will be in-person and livestreamed, and more information on all upcoming National Book Foundation events is available at the Foundation’s website.

The Winners will be announced live on Wednesday, November 15 at the invitation-only 74th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner, featuring special guest Oprah Winfrey, at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. The National Book Foundation will broadcast the Ceremony for readers everywhere on YouTube, Facebook, and the Foundation’s website at nationalbook.org/awards. Winners of the National Book Awards receive $10,000, a bronze medal, and statue; Finalists receive $1,000 and a bronze medal; Winners and Finalists in the Translated Literature category will split the prize evenly between author and translator. Two lifetime achievement awards will also be presented as part of the evening’s ceremony: Rita Dove, National Book Award Finalist and Pulitzer Prize winning poet, will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Jericho Brown, and Paul Yamazaki, principal buyer at City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, presented by Mitchell Kaplan.

Publishers submitted a total of 1,931 books for this year’s National Book Awards: 496 in Fiction, 638 in Nonfiction, 295 in Poetry, 154 in Translated Literature, and 348 in Young People’s Literature. Judges’ decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors, and deliberations are strictly confidential.

Finalists for Fiction:

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Chain-Gang All-Stars
Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House

Aaliyah Bilal, Temple Folk
Simon & Schuster

Paul Harding, This Other Eden
W. W. Norton & Company

Hanna Pylväinen, The End of Drum-Time
Henry Holt and Company / Macmillan Publishers

Justin Torres, Blackouts
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s dystopian novel Chain-Gang All-Stars simulates a private for-profit prison system where prisoners compete for freedom in live-broadcast gladiator-inspired death matches. Aaliyah Bilal’s debut short story collection, Temple Folk, examines the diversity of the Black Muslim experience in America. Paul Harding’s novel This Other Eden traces the legacy of a mixed-race fishing community living on a secluded island off the coast of Maine from 1792 to the early 20th century. In Hanna Pylväinen’s The End of Drum-Time, a Lutheran minister’s daughter falls in love with a native Sámi reindeer herder and joins the herders on their annual migration to the sea in 1850s Scandinavia. Justin Torres’s Blackouts considers the multigenerational gaps in personal and collective queer histories through the real-life inspiration of Sex Variants: A Study of Homosexual Patterns.

Finalists for Nonfiction:

Ned Blackhawk, The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History
Yale University Press

Cristina Rivera Garza, Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice
Hogarth / Penguin Random House

Christina Sharpe, Ordinary Notes
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers

Raja Shehadeh, We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir
Other Press

John Vaillant, Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World
Knopf / Penguin Random House

Historian Ned Blackhawk’s The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History recontextualizes five centuries of US, Native, and non-native histories to argue that Indigenous peoples have played—and continue to play—an essential role in the development of American democracy. In Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice, Cristina Rivera Garza travels to Mexico City to recover her sister’s unresolved case file nearly 30 years after her murder, simultaneously honoring her sister’s life and examining how violence against women affects everyone. Across 248 notes, Christina Sharpe’s Ordinary Notes investigates the legacy of white supremacy and slavery, and presents a kaleidoscopic narrative that celebrates the Black American experience. In We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir, attorney and activist Raja Shehadeh explores his complicated relationship with his father—a lawyer and Palestinian human rights activist who was assassinated in 1985— alongside histories of oppression. In Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World, journalist John Vaillant studies the May 2016 wildfire that devastated a small city in central Canada to make the case that the catastrophic Fort McMurray fire was a foreboding window into what the future holds.

Finalists for Poetry:

John Lee Clark, How to Communicate
W. W. Norton & Company

Craig Santos Perez, from unincorporated territory [åmot]
Omnidawn Publishing

Evie Shockley, suddenly we
Wesleyan University Press

Brandon Som, Tripas
Georgia Review Books / University of Georgia Press

Monica Youn, From From
Graywolf Press

John Lee Clark’s How to Communicate considers the small joys and pains of life, and the endless possibilities of language through poems influenced by the Braille slate and translated from American Sign Language and Protactile, a language used by DeafBlind people that’s rooted in touch. Craig Santos Perez observes and asserts storytelling as an act of resistance—a written form of “åmot,” the Chamoru word for “medicine”—in from unincorporated territory [åmot], the fifth installment in his series dedicated to his homeland of Guåhan (Guam). Evie Shockley plays with visuals, sounds, and poetic form to pay homage to Black feminist visionaries, both living and departed, of a collective “we” in suddenly we. Tripas celebrates Brandon Som’s upbringing in a multicultural, multigenerational home, traversing languages, cultures, and borders to connect his family’s histories. Through poetry and personal essays, Monica Youn’s From From confronts American racism and anti-Asian violence, and reflects back the question of “where are you from from” onto its readers.

Finalists for Translated Literature:

Bora Chung, Cursed Bunny
Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur
Algonquin Books / Hachette Book Group

David Diop, Beyond the Door of No Return
Translated from the French by Sam Taylor
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers

Stênio Gardel, The Words That Remain
Translated from the Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato
New Vessel Press

Pilar Quintana, Abyss
Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman
World Editions

Astrid Roemer, On a Woman’s Madness
Translated from the Dutch by Lucy Scott
Two Lines Press

Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur, the ten stories in Bora Chung’s Cursed Bunny dive headfirst into the surreal to tackle the very real horrors of big tech, capitalism, and the patriarchy. Beyond the Door of No Return by David Diop and translated from the French by Sam Taylor, contemplates the brutality of French colonial occupation and the consequences of obsession, love, and betrayal in 18th-century West Africa. In his seventies, a man is finally able to read a letter from his childhood lover in The Words That Remain by Stênio Gardel, a debut novel translated from the Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato that explores queerness, violence, and the transformative power of the written word. Abyss by Pilar Quintana and translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman, follows an 8-year-old narrator as she makes sense of the world by observing the adults around her, perceiving the complexities of family life at once as real and fantastical. In Astrid Roemer’s On A Woman’s Madness, translated from the Dutch by Lucy Scott, a queer Black woman escapes her abusive husband in search of a new, freer life beyond society’s expectations.

Finalists for Young People’s Literature:

Kenneth M. Cadow, Gather
Candlewick Press

Huda Fahmy, Huda F Cares?
Dial Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House

Vashti Harrison, Big
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / Hachette Book Group

Katherine Marsh, The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine
Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan Publishers

Dan Santat, A First Time for Everything
First Second / Macmillan Publishers

In Gather, Kenneth M. Cadow’s debut novel, a teenager fights to maintain his family’s home, find a job, and care for his mother as she recovers from her opioid addiction—all the while adopting Gather, a stray dog. Huda F Cares?, a graphic novel written and illustrated by Huda Fahmy, follows a visibly Muslim family on their road trip to Disney World, and tells a story of self-acceptance, faith, and the joys and embarrassments of sisterhood. Big, a picture book written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison, is the story of a little girl with a big heart and big dreams who learns that “big” doesn’t always have a positive connotation and offers readers of all ages an important reminder that words matter. The Lost Year by Katherine Marsh follows a 13 year-old who uncovers a family secret tracing back to Holodomor, a government-imposed famine that led to the death of millions of Ukrainians. Dan Santat captures the awkward middle school experience in A First Time for Everything, a graphic memoir inspired by the author’s class trip, and a series of life-changing firsts, in Europe.