Phoebe Robinson, Author and Comic, to Host 72nd National Book Awards

The critically-acclaimed author and comedian will be the master of ceremonies for the 2021 National Book Awards

The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, announced Phoebe Robinson, stand-up comedian, actress, bestselling author, and founder of Tiny Reparations Books, will host the 72nd National Book Awards on November 17, 2021.

“Phoebe Robinson is a fierce champion for readers and writers, and we’re thrilled to have her host the National Book Awards Ceremony this year,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation.

The multihyphenate Robinson is the co-creator of the podcast 2 Dope Queens, launched a production company, Tiny Reparations, and the recent release of her third collection of essays, Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes, is the inaugural title from her Tiny Reparations Books imprint.

On November 17, Robinson will serve as master of ceremonies for the National Book Awards Ceremony that will announce the Winners in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature. The ceremony will also include the presentation of two lifetime achievement awards: Karen Tei Yamashita will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Nancy Pearl will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, presented by Ron Charles.

Phoebe Robinson’s bio is below, and more information about the exclusively online National Book Awards Ceremony can be found at our website, nationalbook.org.

ABOUT PHOEBE ROBINSON

Phoebe Robinson is a stand-up comedian, writer, producer, and actress. She is the co-creator and co-star of the hit podcast turned HBO series 2 Dope Queens and other critically acclaimed podcasts including Sooo Many White Guys and Black Frasier. She’s also the New York Times bestselling author of You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain and Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay which has been picked up as a series order for Freeform. Additionally, Phoebe starred in the films Ibiza and What Men Want, and was a moderator for Michelle Obama’s Becoming book tour where she interviewed the former first lady. In 2019, Phoebe launched Tiny Reparations, a production company under ABC Signature, whose first series Doing the Most with Phoebe Robinson, premiered April 2021 on Comedy Central. In 2021, Phoebe published her third book of essays, Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes, which quickly became a national bestseller and the inaugural title from her imprint, Tiny Reparations Books, which champions writers of color. Her debut hour comedy special, Sorry, Harriet Tubman, premiered in October 2021 on HBO Max.

(Photo credit: Yavez Anthonio)

2021 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 twenty-five Finalists for the 2021 National Book Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature were announced with NYTimes.com. The five Finalists in each category were selected by a distinguished panel of literary experts, and were advanced from the Longlists announced in September.

Between the five categories, there are five writers and two translators who have been previously honored by the National Book Awards: Hanif Abdurraqib, a 2019 Nonfiction Longlister; Anthony Doerr, a 2014 Fiction Finalist; Nona Fernández and Natasha Wimmer, 2019 Translated Literature Longlisters; Lauren Groff, a Finalist for Fiction in 2015 and in 2018; Kekla Magoon, a 2015 Young People’s Literature Longlister; and Leri Price, a 2019 Translated Literature Finalist. All five of the Finalists for Poetry are first-time National Book Award honorees. Four of the twenty-five Finalists are debuts.

Publishers submitted a total of 1,892 books for this year’s National Book Awards: 415 in Fiction, 679 in Nonfiction, 290 in Poetry, 164 in Translated Literature, and 344 in Young People’s Literature. Judges’ decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors; deliberations are strictly confidential.

The Winners will be announced live on Wednesday, November 17 at the 72nd National Book Awards Ceremony, which will be held exclusively online. Two lifetime achievement awards will also be presented as part of the evening’s ceremony: Karen Tei Yamashita will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and Nancy Pearl will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, presented by Ron Charles.

Finalists for Fiction:

Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land
Scribner / Simon & Schuster

Lauren Groff, Matrix
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House

Laird Hunt, Zorrie
Bloomsbury Publishing

Robert Jones, Jr., The Prophets
G. P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin Random House

Jason Mott, Hell of a Book
Dutton / Penguin Random House

Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land spans nearly six centuries as young people coming of age in troubled societies are transported and instructed by the same long-lost book. 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, where she dedicates herself to protecting her new home, her fellow nuns, and her own status. The titular character of Zorrie by Laird Hunt is shaped by the events of the 20th century, from her Depression-era childhood to the fallout of World War II. Robert Jones Jr.’s debut novel, The Prophets, is a Black queer love story of two enslaved men on a Deep South plantation who find tenderness in the face of oppression. Jason Mott fictionalizes his own book tour experience in Hell of a Book, converging an author tour with the story of a Black child growing up in the rural South, and a possibly imaginary counterpart.

Finalists for Nonfiction:

Hanif Abdurraqib, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance
Random House / Penguin Random House

Lucas Bessire, Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains
Princeton University Press

Grace M. Cho, Tastes Like War: A Memoir
Feminist Press at the City University of New York

Nicole Eustace, Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America
Liveright / W. W. Norton & Company

Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake
Random House / Penguin Random House

Hanif Abdurraqib layers personal experience, sociopolitical critique, and celebration of Black genius in A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance. In Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains, Lucas Bessire journeys to his ancestral home of southwest Kansas, addresses the depletion of the Ogallala aquifer, and demands we all take responsibility for a more sustainable future. Tastes Like War by Grace M. Cho is part food memoir and part sociological study. In search for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia, Cho cooks her grandmother’s recipes and documents how the body carries the effects of war, colonialism, xenophobia, and the immigrant experience. In Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America, Nicole Eustace recounts the overlooked 1722 murder case of an Indigenous hunter and eventual trial to explore the meaning of justice in the pre-Revolutionary War era. Tiya Miles’s All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake is the emotionally rich story of an enslaved woman’s cotton bag and an unpacking of generations of history, survival, and familial love.

Finalists for Poetry:

Desiree C. Bailey, What Noise Against the Cane
Yale University Press

Martín Espada, Floaters
W. W. Norton & Company

Douglas Kearney, Sho
Wave Books

Hoa Nguyen, A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure
Wave Books

Jackie Wang, The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void
Nightboat Books

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. 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. Douglas Kearney’s Sho plays with Black vernacular and performance to investigate race, masculinity, and current events. In A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure, Hoa Nguyen grapples with all she does not know about her motherland, her mother tongue, and her mother. 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 in The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the World.

Finalists for Translated Literature:

Elisa Shua Dusapin, Winter in Sokcho
Translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins
Open Letter

Ge Fei, Peach Blossom Paradise
Translated from the Chinese by Canaan Morse
New York Review Books

Nona Fernández, The Twilight Zone
Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
Graywolf Press

Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World
Translated from the Spanish by Adrian Nathan West
New York Review Books

Samar Yazbek, Planet of Clay
Translated from the Arabic by Leri Price
World Editions

In 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, which was translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins. Peach Blossom Paradise 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. Nona Fernández’s The Twilight Zone, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer, follows the narrator’s life-long obsession with a member of the Chilean secret police who confessed to participating in some of the worst crimes committed by Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Written by Benjamín Labatut and translated from the Spanish 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. Planet of Clay by Samar Yazbek and translated from the Arabic by Leri Price 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.

Finalists for Young People’s Literature:

Shing Yin Khor, The Legend of Auntie Po
Kokila / Penguin Random House

Malinda Lo, Last Night at the Telegraph Club
Dutton Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House

Kyle Lukoff, Too Bright to See
Dial Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House

Kekla Magoon, Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People
Candlewick Press

Amber McBride, Me (Moth)
Feiwel and Friends / Macmillan Publishers

In Shing Yin Khor’s graphic novel The Legend of Auntie Po, Mei retells the myth of Paul Bunyan, while navigating the intersections of privilege, race, and immigration in the years following the Chinese Exclusion Act. 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. In Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff, eleven-year-old Bug has two mysteries at hand—a haunted house and an evolving gender identity. Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon explores the Black Panther Party’s prioritization of justice and community care, and connects the Party’s principles to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. After losing her family in a tragic car accident, Moth feels alone until she meets Sani, and together, they embark on a road trip to discover their ancestry in Amber McBride’s Me (Moth).


The National Book Foundation will once again broadcast the National Book Awards Ceremony on YouTube, Facebook, and the Foundation’s website at nationalbook.org/awards. Winners of the National Book Awards receive $10,000 and 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.

The Awards Ceremony is the culminating event in a series of entirely virtual National Book Awards events to be held in the coming months. The traditional National Book Awards Finalists Reading, in which all the Finalists will read from their work, will be hosted by The New School on the evening of November 9; this event will be online, free, and open to the public. The annual National Book Awards Teen Press Conference, hosted by Kwame Alexander, will take place on November 10. The 2021 5 Under 35 cohort, the Foundation’s celebration of emerging fiction writers selected by National Book Award Winners, Finalists, Longlisted authors, and former 5 Under 35 honorees, will be honored at an invitation-only ceremony in Spring 2022.

 

AAP, CLMP, and NBF Provide $4.3 Million in Second Round of Emergency Funding for Literary Organizations and Publishers

The three national nonprofit literary arts organizations that launched the Literary Arts Emergency Fund (LAEF) last year—the Academy of American Poets, Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), and National Book Foundation—have come together again to renew the LAEF and provide another round of critical funding for nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers experiencing continued financial losses due to COVID-19. Regrants from this fund are made possible by a renewed grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“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.”

According to the Americans for the Arts’ survey on the economic impact of COVID-19, by the beginning of 2021 alone, nonprofit literary arts organizations were already reporting over $11.7 million in total financial losses.

“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.

The 72nd National Book Awards will be an Exclusively Digital Ceremony

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 announces its 2021 5 Under 35 Honorees

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 2021 5 Under 35 honorees are:

Caleb Azumah Nelson, Open Water
Black Cat / Grove Atlantic
Selected by Brit Bennett, 2020 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction, 2016 5 Under 35 honoree

Nathan Harris, The Sweetness of Water
Little, Brown and Company / Hachette Book Group
Selected by Charmaine Craig, 2017 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction

Lee Lai, Stone Fruit
Fantagraphics
Selected by Bryan Washington, 2019 5 Under 35 honoree

Claire Luchette, Agatha of Little Neon
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers
Selected by Elizabeth McCracken, 1996 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction, 2014 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction, 2021 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction

Dantiel W. Moniz, Milk Blood Heat
Grove / Grove Atlantic
Selected by Rumaan Alam, 2020 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction

2021 National Book Awards Longlist for Fiction

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:

Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land
Scribner / Simon & Schuster

Lauren Groff, Matrix
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House

Jakob Guanzon, Abundance
Graywolf Press

Laird Hunt, Zorrie
Bloomsbury Publishing

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois
Harper / HarperCollins Publishers

Robert Jones, Jr., The Prophets
G. P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin Random House

Katie Kitamura, Intimacies
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House

Elizabeth McCracken, The Souvenir Museum: Stories
Ecco / HarperCollins Publishers

Jason Mott, Hell of a Book
Dutton / Penguin Random House

Richard Powers, Bewilderment
W. W. Norton & Company

2021 National Book Awards Longlist for Nonfiction

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:

Hanif Abdurraqib, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance
Random House / Penguin Random House

Lucas Bessire, Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains
Princeton University Press

Grace M. Cho, Tastes Like War: A Memoir
Feminist Press at the City University of New York

Scott Ellsworth, The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice
Dutton / Penguin Random House

Nicole Eustace, Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America
Liveright / W. W. Norton & Company

Heather McGhee, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together
One World / Penguin Random House

Louis Menand, The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers

Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake
Random House / Penguin Random House

Clint Smith, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America
Little, Brown and Company / Hachette Book Group

Deborah Willis, The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship
New York University Press

2021 National Book Awards Longlist for Poetry

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:  

Threa Almontaser, The Wild Fox of Yemen
Graywolf Press

Baba Badji, Ghost Letters
Parlor Press

Desiree C. Bailey, What Noise Against the Cane
Yale University Press

CM Burroughs, Master Suffering
Tupelo Press

Andrés Cerpa, The Vault
Alice James Books

Martín Espada, Floaters
W. W. Norton & Company

Forrest Gander, Twice Alive
New Directions

Douglas Kearney, Sho
Wave Books

Hoa Nguyen, A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure
Wave Books

Jackie Wang, The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void
Nightboat Books

2021 National Book Awards Longlist for Translated Literature

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:

Maryse Condé, Waiting for the Waters to Rise
Translated from the French by Richard Philcox
World Editions

Elisa Shua Dusapin, Winter in Sokcho
Translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins
Open Letter

Ge Fei, Peach Blossom Paradise
Translated from the Chinese by Canaan Morse
New York Review Books

Nona Fernández, The Twilight Zone
Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
Graywolf Press

Bo-Young Kim, On the Origin of Species and Other Stories
Translated from the Korean by Joungmin Lee Comfort and Sora Kim-Russell
Kaya Press

Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World
Translated from the Spanish by Adrian Nathan West
New York Review Books

Elvira Navarro, Rabbit Island: Stories
Translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
Two Lines Press

Judith Schalansky, An Inventory of Losses
Translated from the German by Jackie Smith
New Directions

Maria Stepanova, In Memory of Memory
Translated from the Russian by Sasha Dugdale
New Directions

Samar Yazbek, Planet of Clay
Translated from the Arabic by Leri Price
World Editions