Author in Focus

James Baldwin

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.

—James Baldwin

The National Book Foundation’s Author in Focus program seeks to highlight and reframe the work of selected, historical authors from the National Book Awards family whose work is deserving of a renewed celebration and revival. Author in Focus consists of a year of nationwide educational and public programming celebrating these important writers and contextualizing their work for today’s reader.

The National Book Awards has a stellar record of identifying and rewarding quality writing since its inception in 1950, when William Carlos Williams received the first Award for Poetry. William Faulkner was honored the following year for Fiction, and so on through time. Many previous Winners of the National Book Award are now firmly established in the canon of American literature, including Ralph Ellison, Flannery O’Connor, Philip Roth, Elizabeth Bishop, and Adrienne Rich. Author in Focus is designed to shine the spotlight on some of the most singular National Book Awards–honored writers in our history.

The writings of literary icon and social critic James Baldwin are as relevant today as the moment they were written, particularly given the state of racial relations in the U.S., and are crucial to our current understanding of American history—which, as Baldwin said, is “longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” Baldwin, a four-time National Book Award Finalist, was a natural choice as the inaugural Author in Focus spotlight writer.

Author in Focus: James Baldwin will include events designed for the general public as well as programs specifically geared at three groups who help connect readers with books:  high-school teachers, librarians, and booksellers. In addition, NBF will work with our partners Writers in the Schools and the NY Writers Coalition to engage young people in schools and youth justice programs, respectively, and create a series of digital guides to extend post-event conversation and exploration of Baldwin’s work.

Public events will include renowned contemporary writers reading from Baldwin’s writing and delving into subjects often explored by Baldwin such as sexuality, politics, marriage, police brutality, religion, race, and love. In this way, readers can come away with a deeper understanding of why James Baldwin’s legacy and impact has continued to grow substantially over the years.

Author in Focus: James Baldwin events will take place at:

National Council of Teachers of English’s Conference on English Leadership Convention (CEL) & the Houston Public Library
Houston, Texas
November 18–19, 2018

American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute & the Albuquerque Public Library
Albuquerque, New Mexico
January 22–25, 2019

American Library Association’s Annual Conference  (ALA) & the DC Public Library
Washington, DC
June 20–25, 2019

Author in Focus: James Baldwin is made possible by Velvet Film and the Ford Foundation.

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