NEW YORK (AP) – Jason Mott’s Hell of the Book, a surreal meta-story about the author’s publicity tour and his troubling past and present, won the National Book Award for fiction – a plot twist Mott could not have imagined. …
Book Hell is a satirical take on the adventures of a black writer during a publicity tour. Mott put his own experience to the test, recounting previous works such as his debut novel The Returns, and the harsh and disorienting film. a tale of racial violence and identity based on recent headlines and the author’s childhood.
“I would like to dedicate this award to all the other crazy kids, all outsiders, weirdos, intimidated, those who are so strange that they had no choice but to be misunderstood by the world and those around them,” – 43-year-old Mott. – he said in his speech of thanks.
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He also quoted “those who, despite this, refuse to outgrow their imaginations, refuse to give up their dreams, refuse to deny, belittle their identity, or their truth, or their love – unlike many others.”
“Everything She Carried With Her: Ashley’s Bag Travel, Memento for Black Families” Tiye Miles won the Documentary category.
Malinda Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club, a story of same-sex, cross-cultural love set in the 1950s, has become popular in youth literature.
The Poetry Prize was awarded to The Floating by Martin Espade, and the best translation was Winter in Sokcho by Eliza Shua Dusapin, translated from the French by Anisa Abbas Higgins.
Winners of the competition categories will receive $ 10,000 each Wednesday night.
Two honorary awards were presented: author-playwright Karen Tei Yamashita received the Distinguished Service Medal for American Literature, and author-librarian and NPR commentator Nancy Pearl received the Literary Award for Distinguished Service to the American Literary Society.
The 72nd annual award was presented by the nonprofit National Book Fund. While other literary events such as PEN America’s annual gala were held in person this fall, the Foundation decided to host a virtual ceremony in September for the second consecutive year, citing the difficulty of organizing a gathering of “authors, publishers and guests traveling from across the country. . “
Yamashita and Pearl were among the laureates who spoke of an unreliable gift, worrying about a wave of attempts to censor schools and libraries and brutal attacks on racial minorities. Some of the finalists, both fiction and documentary, have sought meaning in the distant past, be it Nicole Eustace’s historical work Covered in the Night: A Story of Indigenous Murder and Justice in Early America, or novels like the 12th-13th century Lauren Groff’s The Matrix “. “And the story of Robert Jones Jr. about slavery” The Prophets. “
Both Groff and Jones say that studying the past is an inspiring way to understand the present. Groff’s novel is based in part on the medieval writer Marie de France, an outcast from the French royal court who took over a dilapidated abbey in England and is helping to turn it into an economic and social force. Men are almost entirely absent and not mentioned in The Matrix, which tells of how Marie overturns religious and other patriarchal institutions.
“I was deeply impressed with the way the modern moment and that historical period spoke to each other over a distance of almost a millennium,” Groff, a three-time National Book Award finalist, said in a recent interview. “At that time, I saw the seeds of how we came to where we are and how we feel about women — how we still experience an ambivalent attitude toward female power.”
Jones invented – in its entirety – a love story between two enslaved people in Mississippi, Isaiah and Samuel. While famous slavery novels like Toni Morrison’s Beloved draw on historical records for their plots, Jones admitted that he has no basis for Isaiah and Samuel other than his belief that people like they were left without documents. He recalled watching a video by British journalist Esther Armach, who said that her father and great-grandfather from Ghana and other members of their community did not classify relationships based on sexuality.
“It was all considered natural and normal,” he said. “And that gave me the courage to write about people like Samuel and Isaiah. There must have been people like Samuel and Isaiah. “
The event was hosted by actor, writer and comedian Phoebe Robinson, who praised the books as a “pass” to the big world, even when she joked that her own books did not lead her to the rare spot of finalists for the award. Actor Dion Graham of The Wire was the lead announcer, and Kerry Washington and Rita Moreno were among those who helped introduce the individual categories.
The National Book Prize was established in 1950 and has undergone several changes: the categories have temporarily expanded to over 20 and shrunk to just four. In recent years, the book fund added a category for books to be translated and began announcing long listings of 10 in each category before consolidating them into five.
The jury reviewed over 1,800 submitted books. The jury for this year included such well-known authors as Eula Biss, Ilya Kaminsky and Charles Yu, winner of the 2020 National Book Award in the field of fiction.