National Book Foundation Announces 2021 Spring Season of NBF Presents

January 2021



Twenty-two National Book Award–honored authors to appear in a lineup of all virtual programming through June 2021

The National Book Foundation announced its spring NBF Presents lineup of 12 events taking place through June 2021, continuing the programming made possible by a multi-year, $900,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. NBF Presents, which includes all of the Foundation’s public programs, represents the National Book Foundation’s continued commitment to providing widespread access to high-caliber, topical literary programming for readers everywhere. All announced programming for this season will be held exclusively online and at no cost to viewers. Loyalty Bookstores in Washington, DC will return as the season’s bookseller.

National Book Award–honored authors and translators confirmed to appear at NBF Presents events in the spring season include Rumaan Alam, Tommye Blount, Jericho Brown, Kacen Callender, Toi Derricotte, Natalie Diaz, Camonghne Felix, Terrance Hayes, Sophie Hughes, Victoria Jamieson, Laila Lalami, Megha Majumdar, Fernanda Melchor, Omar Mohamed, Tamara Payne, Deesha Philyaw, Douglas Stuart, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, David Treuer, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Isabel Wilkerson, Charles Yu, and more to come.

This season’s NBF Presents events will consider topics both domestic and international—from the history of Blackness in America to the significance of translated literature—and connect authors and translators writing across fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature with readers around the world.

“We are thrilled to offer a second virtual season of NBF Presents and once again bring engaging and timely arts content to audiences wherever they may be watching.” said Jordan Smith, Interim Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, “Our hope is that the words of these authors resonate with viewers and fuel important community conversations.”

Alongside the NBF Presents events hosted by the Foundation online, the National Book Foundation will present programs with returning partners Tucson Festival of Books and Virginia Festival of the Book to celebrate the most recent crop of 2020 National Book Award–honored authors.

“In planning a fully virtual festival for spring 2021, we knew the work wouldn’t be possible without longstanding supporters and partners,” said Brenda Viner, co-founder of the Tucson Festival of Books. “We’re thrilled to celebrate National Book Award–honored authors each year—especially years like this one—and work alongside the National Book Foundation to amplify outstanding books, support independent book sales, and engage our audiences with thought-provoking conversations.”

The Foundation will also connect with students through its continued college partnerships at Amherst College and Concordia College, as well as pilot curated classroom book distributions aligned with the season’s online programming to select college and university partners in Alabama, Hawai’i, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Washington.

“In such a strange and difficult year, it is a real gift for our students to continue engaging with National Book Award–honored authors and their work through NBF Presents programming,” said Dr. Channa Prakash, Dean of Arts & Sciences at Tuskegee University. “There is no better time than now to foster a life-long love of reading and for all students to benefit from the lessons that great literature teaches us.”

The full list of confirmed spring NBF Presents events can be found below, and an updated NBF Presents calendar is available at the Foundation’s website. These are free events but please RSVP directly at the Foundation or partner website as directed.


NBF Presents Spring Schedule

Thursday, January 21, 6:00pm ET
NBF YouTube channel
NBF Presents: Happy Debut Year

To kick off the new year, the Foundation celebrates three 2020 National Book Award–honored authors whose first books made an undeniable impact on the literary landscape. Tommye Blount (Fantasia for the Man in Blue, Finalist, Poetry), Megha Majumdar (A Burning, Longlist, Fiction), and Douglas Stuart (Shuggie Bain, Finalist, Fiction) discuss releasing debuts in 2020, discovering an audience, and what comes next, for them and for contemporary literature. Moderated by MJ Franklin, an editor at the New York Times Book Review.


Thursday, February 4, 6:00pm ET
NBF YouTube channel
NBF Presents: Black History Reexamined

In two groundbreaking works, 2020 National Book Award–honored authors Tamara Payne (The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, Winner, Nonfiction) and Isabel Wilkerson (Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent, Longlist, Nonfiction) deconstruct and re-contextualize Black experiences in America—Payne through the lens of the famed civil rights leader Malcolm X, and Wilkerson through centuries of racialized hierarchies. Join Payne and Wilkerson for a conversation on research, race, and re-writing American history.


Tuesday, February 16, 8:00pm ET
NBF YouTube channel
NBF Presents: Secrets of the South

Join National Book Award–honored authors Jericho Brown (The Tradition, 2019 Poetry Finalist), Tayari Jones (An American Marriage, 2018 Fiction Longlist), and Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, 2020 Fiction Finalist) for a conversation on Southern literature and how Black writers are redefining stereotypes of the South, one poem, story, and secret at a time. Moderated by Kiese Laymon, author of, most recently, Heavy: An American Memoir.


Friday, February 26, 7:00pm ET – Saturday, February 27, 11:00am ET
Amherst College
NBF Presents: LitFest 2021

The National Book Foundation returns to Amherst College’s annual LitFest for the sixth year running with two events dedicated to 2020 National Book Award–honored authors. The celebrations kick off on Friday, February 26 with novelists Megha Majumdar (A Burning, Longlist, Fiction) and Charles Yu (Interior Chinatown, Winner, Fiction), in conversation moderated by visiting writer Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint. Then, on Saturday, February 27, poets Tommye Blount (Fantasia for the Man in Blue, Finalist, Poetry) and Natalie Diaz (Postcolonial Love Poem, Finalist, Poetry) join John Hennessy, poetry editor of The Common and judge for the 2020 National Book Award for Poetry. Both events are free and open to the public. These programs are supported by Amherst College and The Common magazine.


Saturday, March 6, 11:00am MST
Tucson Festival of Books
NBF Presents: Page, Stage, and Screen

2020 National Book Award–honored authors Lydia Millet (A Children’s Bible, Finalist, Fiction), Jenn Shapland (My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, Finalist, Nonfiction), and Charles Yu (Interior Chinatown, Winner, Fiction) come together for a cross-genre discussion on inspiration, reading, and recognition. Presented in partnership with the Tucson Festival of Books.


Thursday, March 11, 7:30pm CT
Concordia College
NBF Presents: The National Book Awards at Concordia College

The National Book Foundation’s sixteenth year of partnership with Concordia College features a reading and conversation with National Book Award–honored authors Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (When Stars Are Scattered, 2020 Young People’s Literature Finalist) and David Treuer (The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to Present, 2019 Nonfiction Finalist). Moderated by John Ydstie, a former NPR correspondent. This program is supported by Concordia College and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in honor of Earl Lewis ‘78.


Saturday, March 13, 7:00pm ET
Virginia Festival of the Book
NBF Presents: The Work of Fiction

Three 2020 honorees for the National Book Award for Fiction: Rumaan Alam (Leave the World Behind, Finalist), Megha Majumdar (A Burning, Longlist), and Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Finalist), discuss their books and fiction’s place in contemporary American culture. Presented in partnership with the Virginia Festival of the Book, this event will be available for free on-demand viewing at


Thursday, March 25, 6:00pm ET
NBF YouTube channel
NBF Presents: Borders of Belonging

To question the “other” in American identity, join National Book Award–honored authors Laila Lalami (The Other Americans, 2019 Fiction Finalist), Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Heads of the Colored People, 2018 Fiction Longlist), and Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (The Undocumented Americans, 2020 Nonfiction Finalist) for a conversation on borders, immigration, and outsiders, and what it means to write one’s self into existence. Moderated by Concepción de León, a New York Times reporter.


Thursday, April 22, 6:00pm ET
NBF YouTube channel
NBF Presents: Poetry in Protest

It’s National Poetry Month, and to celebrate, National Book Award–honored authors Toi Derricotte (“I”: New and Selected Poems, 2019 Poetry Finalist), Camonghne Felix (Build Yourself a Boat, 2019 Poetry Longlist), and Terrance Hayes (Lighthead, 2010 Poetry Winner; How to Be Drawn, 2015 Poetry Finalist; American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, 2018 Poetry Finalist) discuss the impact of protest poetry on American literature and American politics. Moderated by Kyle Dacuyan, Executive Director of The Poetry Project.


Thursday, May 20, 5:00pm ET
NBF YouTube channel
NBF Presents: The Art of Translation

Hurricane Season is the story of a dead witch set in a small town in Mexico. The book, translated from the Spanish, found a global audience and recognition. 2020 National Book Award Longlist author and translator Fernanda Melchor and Sophie Hughes come together for a conversation on the trust-fall act—and art—of literary translation, and the significance of a reader’s access to international perspectives. Moderated by Shuchi Saraswat, writer, editor, and founder of The Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith.


Tuesday, June 15, 6:00pm ET
NBF YouTube channel
NBF Presents: Revolutionary Joy

NBF Presents’ season finale recognizes the historical and literary significance of Black trans and nonbinary narratives with National Book Award–honored author Kacen Callender (King and the Dragonflies, 2020 Young People’s Literature Winner), and a discussion on trans and nonbinary stories that make room for both queer pain and joy. More details to come.



Unless otherwise noted, all programs made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

To RSVP for events, please visit or the websites of any of our partners.