Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Nominees and Winning Books

Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Winning Books

The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award™ honors the best in Black literature. Introduced in 2001, the Legacy Award was the first national award presented to Black writers by a national organization of Black writers. Fiction, debut fiction, nonfiction, and poetry honorees are selected in a juried competition. Each October, the award winners are celebrated during a gala that draws hundreds of literary stars, readers, representatives of the publishing industry, the arts, media, politics, and academia. Learn more at the Hurston/Wright Foundation’s website


16 Books Honored by the National Book Foundation in 2019

Winner - Fiction

Book Description: 
This “vivid, fast, funny, way-smart, and verbally inventive” (George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo) collection of stories examines the concept of black identity in this so-called post-racial era.

A stunning new talent in literary fiction, Nafissa Thompson-Spires grapples with black identity and the contemporary middle class in these compelling, boundary-pushing vignettes “stuffed with invention” (Publishers Weekly).

Each captivating story plunges headfirst into the lives of new, utterly original characters. Some are darkly humorous—from two mothers exchanging snide remarks through notes in their kids’ backpacks, to the young girl contemplating how best to notify her Facebook friends of her impending suicide—while others are devastatingly poignant—a new mother and funeral singer who is driven to madness with grief for the young black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence, or the teen who struggles between her upper middle class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with black culture.

Thompson-Spires fearlessly shines a light on the simmering tensions and precariousness of black citizenship. Her stories are exquisitely rendered, satirical, and captivating in turn, engaging in the ongoing conversations about race and identity politics, as well as the vulnerability of the black body. “Heads of the Colored People is a necessary and powerful new collection with, thankfully, not a dull sentence to be found” (Peter Orner, author of Am I Alone Here?). Boldly resisting categorization and easy answers, Thompson-Spires’s collection “cements her role as an incredibly important voice in literature right now” (PopSugar).


Winner - Poetry

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
by Terrance Hayes

Publication Date: Jun 19, 2018
List Price: $18.00
Format: Paperback, 112 pages
Classification: Poetry
ISBN13: 9780143133186
Imprint: Penguin Books
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann

Read a Description of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin


Book Description: 
A powerful, timely, dazzling collection of sonnets from one of America’s most acclaimed poets, Terrance Hayes, the National Book Award winning author of Lighthead

In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country’s past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares. Inventive, compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, and bewildered—the wonders of this new collection are irreducible and stunning.

Finalist - Fiction

A Lucky Man: Stories
by Jamel Brinkley

Publication Date: May 08, 2018
List Price: $26.00
Format: Hardcover, 264 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9781555978051
Imprint: Graywolf Press
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Parent Company: Graywolf Press

Read a Description of A Lucky Man: Stories


Book Description: 

In the nine expansive, searching stories of A Lucky Man, fathers and sons attempt to salvage relationships with friends and family members and confront mistakes made in the past. An imaginative young boy from the Bronx goes swimming with his group from day camp at a backyard pool in the suburbs, and faces the effects of power and privilege in ways he can barely grasp. A teen intent on proving himself a man through the all-night revel of J’Ouvert can’t help but look out for his impressionable younger brother. A pair of college boys on the prowl follow two girls home from a party and have to own the uncomfortable truth of their desires. And at a capoeira conference, two brothers grapple with how to tell the story of their family, caught in the dance of their painful, fractured history.

Jamel Brinkley’s stories, in a debut that announces the arrival of a significant new voice, reflect the tenderness and vulnerability of black men and boys whose hopes sometimes betray them, especially in a world shaped by race, gender, and class―where luck may be the greatest fiction of all.




Finalist - Nonfiction

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower
by Brittney Cooper

Publication Date: Feb 20, 2018
List Price: $25.99
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9781250112576
Imprint: St. Martin’s Press
Publisher: Macmillan Publishers
Parent Company: Holtzbrinck Publishing Group

Read a Description of Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower


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Book Description: 
With searing honesty, intimacy and humor too, America’s leading young black feminist celebrates the power of rage.Melissa Harris Perry says: “I was waiting for an author who wouldn’t forget, ignore, or erase us black girls as they told their own story…I was waiting and she has come?in Brittney Cooper.” Michael Eric Dyson says: “Cooper may be the boldest young feminist writing today. Her critique is sharp, her love of Black people and Black culture is deep, and she will make you laugh out loud.” Rebecca Traister says: "Brittney Cooper is a national treasure."Mychal Denzel Smith says: "Brittney Cooper is the Black Feminist Prophet we urgently need." So what if it’s true that Black women are mad as hell? They have the right to be. In the Black feminist tradition of Audre Lorde, Brittney Cooper reminds us that anger is a powerful source of energy that can give us the strength to keep on fighting.Far too often, Black women’s anger has been caricatured into an ugly and destructive force that threatens the civility and social fabric of American democracy. But Cooper shows us that there is more to the story than that. Black women’s eloquent rage is what makes Serena Williams such a powerful tennis player. It’s what makes Beyoncé’s girl power anthems resonate so hard. It’s what makes Michelle Obama an icon. Eloquent rage keeps us all honest and accountable. It reminds women that they don’t have to settle for less. When Cooper learned of her grandmother’s eloquent rage about love, sex, and marriage in an epic and hilarious front-porch confrontation, her life was changed. And it took another intervention, this time staged by one of her homegirls, to turn Brittney into the fierce feminist she is today. In Brittney Cooper’s world, neither mean girls nor fuckboys ever win. But homegirls emerge as heroes. This book argues that ultimately feminism, friendship, and faith in one’s own superpowers are all we really need to turn things right side up again.

Finalist - Nonfiction

Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster
by Stephen L. Carter

Publication Date: Oct 09, 2018
List Price: $30.00
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9781250121974
Imprint: Henry Holt & Company
Publisher: Macmillan Publishers
Parent Company: Holtzbrinck Publishing Group

Read a Description of Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster


Book Description: 

She was brilliant, ambitious, and unafraid to break barriers. As the only member of a squad of twenty high-powered lawyers who was not a white male, she devised the strategy that in the 1930s sent Mafia chieftain Lucky Luciano to prison. She achieved so much—but what could she have accomplished if not for barriers of race and gender?

Eunice Hunton Carter, Stephen Carter’s grandmother, was the daughter of a distinguished African American couple and the granddaughter of slaves. A graduate of Smith College and Fordham Law School, she became a key member of the legal team charged with breaking up organized crime in New York City. By the 1940s, she was one of the most famous black women in America. But at every turn, Eunice encountered prejudice, and her triumphs were shadowed by tragedy. Greatly complicating her rise was her difficult relationship with her younger brother, Alphaeus, an avowed Communist who—together with his friend Dashiell Hammett—went to prison during the McCarthy era. Yet she remained unbowed: constantly reinventing herself, she somehow found a way forward.

Moving, haunting, and written with dazzling power, Invisible tells the story of a woman who often found her path blocked by the social and political expectations of the age. But Eunice Carter never accepted defeat, and thanks to her grandson’s remarkable book she is once again visible.


Finalist - Poetry

Mend: Poems
by Kwoya Fagin Maples

Publication Date: Sep 26, 2018
List Price: $19.95
Format: Paperback, 96 pages
Classification: Poetry
ISBN13: 9780813176277
Imprint: University Press of Kentucky
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Parent Company: University Press of Kentucky

Read a Description of Mend: Poems


Book Description: 

The inventor of the speculum, J. Marion Sims, is celebrated as the "father of modern gynecology," and a memorial at his birthplace honors "his service to suffering women, empress and slave alike." These tributes whitewash the fact that Sims achieved his surgical breakthroughs by experimenting on eleven enslaved African American women. Lent to Sims by their owners, these women were forced to undergo operations without their consent. Today, the names of all but three of these women are lost.

In Mend: Poems, Kwoya Fagin Maples gives voice to the enslaved women named in Sims’s autobiography: Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy. In poems exploring imagined memories and experiences relayed from hospital beds, the speakers challenge Sims’s lies, mourn their trampled dignity, name their suffering in spirit, and speak of their bodies as "bruised fruit." At the same time, they are more than his victims, and the poems celebrate their humanity, their feelings, their memories, and their selves. A finalist for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, this debut collection illuminates a complex and disturbing chapter of the African American experience.


Finalist - Poetry

Crosslight for Youngbird
by Asiya Wadud

Publication Date: Oct 02, 2018
List Price: $15.95
Format: Paperback, 88 pages
Classification: Poetry
ISBN13: 9781937658878
Imprint: Nightboat Books
Publisher: Nightboat Books
Parent Company: Nightboat Books

Read a Description of Crosslight for Youngbird


Book Description: 
"According to the principles of the distribution of light, or, God’s will, a person interested in the future must account for each flicker or movement of the enclosures that engage and separate us from and with one another. Asiya’s work takes, indeed, a bird’s eye view. I think it is possible to believe in the invocation of the wide view." —Simone White

Nominee - Fiction

Washington Black
by Esi Edugyan

Publication Date: Sep 18, 2018
List Price: $26.95
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780525521426
Imprint: Knopf Publishing Group
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann

Read a Description of Washington Black


Book Description: 
TOP TEN BOOK OF THE YEAR: New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, Entertainment Weekly, Slate
- ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Boston Globe, NPR, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Economist, Bustle
WINNER OF THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
- FINALIST FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE, THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE, THE ROGERS WRITERS’ TRUST PRIZE

"Enthralling" —Boston Globe "Extraordinary" —Seattle Times "A rip-roaring tale" —Washington Post

A dazzling adventure story about a boy who rises from the ashes of slavery to become a free man of the world.

George Washington Black, or "Wash," an eleven-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is terrified to be chosen by his master’s brother as his manservant. To his surprise, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning—and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, Christopher and Wash must abandon everything. What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic. What brings Christopher and Wash together will tear them apart, propelling Wash even further across the globe in search of his true self. From the blistering cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, from the earliest aquariums of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black tells a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again, and asks the question, What is true freedom?

Nominee - Fiction

Friday Black
by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Publication Date: Oct 23, 2018
List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback, 208 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9781328911247
Imprint: Mariner Books
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Parent Company: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Read a Description of Friday Black


Book Description: 
“An excitement and a wonder: strange, crazed, urgent and funny…The wildly talented Adjei-Brenyah has made these edgy tales immensely charming, via his resolute, heartful, immensely likeable narrators, capable of seeing the world as blessed and cursed at once.”
—George Saunders

“This book is dark and captivating and essential…A call to arms and a condemnation. Adjei-Brenyah offers powerful prose as parable. The writing in this outstanding collection will make you hurt and demand your hope. Read this book.”
—Roxane Gay

A piercingly raw debut story collection from a young writer with an explosive voice; a treacherously surreal, and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it’s like to be young and black in America.

From the start of this extraordinary debut, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day in this country.

These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In “The Finkelstein Five,” Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In “Zimmer Land,” we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. And “Friday Black” and “How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King” show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all.

Entirely fresh in its style and perspective, and sure to appeal to fans of Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, and George Saunders, Friday Black confronts readers with a complicated, insistent, wrenching chorus of emotions, the final note of which, remarkably, is hope.

Nominee - Fiction

Brother
by David Chariandy

Publication Date: Jul 31, 2018
List Price: $22.00
Format: Hardcover, 192 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9781635572049
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Parent Company: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Read a Description of Brother


Book Description: 

"A brilliant, powerful elegy from a living brother to a lost one, yet pulsing with rhythm, and beating with life." —Marlon James

"Highly recommend Brother by David Chariandy—concise and intense, elegiac short novel of devastation and hope." —Joyce Carol Oates, via Twitter

WINNER—Toronto Book Award
WINNER—Rogers’ Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
WINNER—Ethel Wilson Prize for Fiction

Esquire Best Books of the Year
Kirkus Best Books of the Year
Guardian Best Books of the Year
New York Public Library Best Books of the Year

Aspen Words Literary Prize Finalist
PEN Open Book Awards Longlist
Orwell Prize for Political Fiction Longlist
The Believer Book Awards Longlist

"Every sentence feels like a polished stone." —Entertainment Weekly

"Elegiac and incendiary" —Boston Globe

"A dwarf star of mourning and regret" —Wall Street Journal

"Elegant, vital, indubitably dope" —Guardian

"An important, vital and groundbreaking book" —Medium

"An absolutely mammoth literary talent" —KIESE LAYMON

"Riveting, composed, charged with feeling" —MADELEINE THIEN

In luminous, incisive prose, a startling new literary talent explores masculinity, race, and sexuality against a backdrop of simmering violence during the summer of 1991.

One sweltering summer in the Park, a housing complex outside of Toronto, Michael and Francis are coming of age and learning to stomach the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry. While their Trinidadian single mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home, Francis helps the days pass by inventing games and challenges, bringing Michael to his crew’s barbershop hangout, and leading escapes into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.

Propelled by the beats and styles of hip hop, Francis dreams of a future in music. Michael’s dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.

Honest and insightful in its portrayal of kinship, community, and lives cut short, David Chariandy’s Brother is an emotional tour de force that marks the arrival of a stunning new literary voice.


Nominee - Nonfiction

The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke
by Jeffrey C. Stewart

Publication Date: Feb 01, 2018
List Price: $39.95
Format: Hardcover, 944 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9780195089578
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Parent Company: University of Oxford

Read a Description of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke


Book Description: 

Alain Locke a tiny, fastidiously dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to mentor a generation of young artists including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence and call them the New Negro — the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Black people to greatness.”

In The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally. He narrates the education of Locke, including his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar and earning a PhD in philosophy at Harvard University, and his long career as a professor at Howard University. Locke also received a cosmopolitan, aesthetic education through his travels in continental Europe, where he came to appreciate the beauty of art and experienced a freedom unknown to him in the United States. And yet he became most closely associated with the flowering of Black culture in Jazz Age America and his promotion of the literary and artistic work of African Americans as the quintessential creations of American modernism. In the process he looked to Africa to find the proud and beautiful roots of the race. Shifting the discussion of race from politics and economics to the arts, he helped establish the idea that Black urban communities could be crucibles of creativity.

Stewart explores both Locke’s professional and private life, including his relationships with his mother, his friends, and his white patrons, as well as his lifelong search for love as a gay man. Stewart’s thought-provoking biography recreates the worlds of this illustrious, enigmatic man who, in promoting the cultural heritage of Black people, became — in the process — a New Negro himself.

Alain Locke photo

Locke represents a biographical challenge of unusual difficulty. Superbly educated, dazzlingly intelligent, psychologically complicated, and a cultural analyst and visionary whose books and essays helped to shape our understanding of race and modern American culture, Locke could also be petty and vindictive, manipulative and cruel. Also stamping his identity was his brave commitment to living fully as a gay man, despite its various dangers. Jeffrey Stewart, rising superbly to this challenge, has given us one of the finest literary biographies to appear in recent years.”Arnold Rampersad, Stanford University

Here Jeffrey C. Stewart is interviewed by E. Ethelbert Miller’s radio program, On The Margin. This interview was recorded, Thursday, February 1, 2018 on WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington, DC



Nominee - Nonfiction

Heavy: An American Memoir
by Kiese Laymon

Publication Date: Jan 01, 2019
List Price: $26.00
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9781501125652
Imprint: Scribner
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation

Read a Description of Heavy: An American Memoir


Book Description:  With charged intellect and piercing candor, provocative essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon shares his experiences of growing up with racial prejudice and violence both within his own family and in the culture at large.

Kiese Laymon is a fearless writer. In his essays, he filters his personal stories through the full power of his impressive intellect to reflect on American society. But one issue has always evaded his penetrating self-reflection and that was his own abuse, a subject that brought feelings of shame and humiliation. Now he opens himself to this past, confronts these painful memories, and asks us to consider our shared memories as an abusive nation. In “Heavy,” Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about the physical manifestations of violence, grief, trauma, and abuse on his own body and the collective body of the Black community. He also chronicles his attempt to lose 100 pounds, an effort at which he fails. He speaks to his two aunts, his grandmother, his mother, his father, his mother s ex-boyfriend, and the two women who sexually abused him, as well as to his friends, whose abuse he witnessed, about their relationship with violence, race, trauma, gender, and food.

A personal story that illuminates national issues, “Heavy” is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful exploration that begins with a heartbreaking story of innocence taken and continues through twenty-five years of repeated, haunting implosions, and long reverberations.”

Nominee - Nonfiction

Tigerland: The Miracle on East Broad Street
by Wil Haygood

Publication Date: Oct 16, 2018
List Price: $27.95
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9781524731861
Imprint: Knopf
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann

Read a Description of Tigerland: The Miracle on East Broad Street


Book Description: 
From the author of the best-selling The Butler—an emotional, inspiring story of two teams from a poor, black, segregated high school in Ohio, who, in the midst of the racial turbulence of 1968/1969, win the Ohio state baseball and basketball championships in the same year.

1968 and 1969: Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy are assassinated. Race relations are frayed like never before. Cities are aflame as demonstrations and riots proliferate. But in Columbus, Ohio, the Tigers of segregated East High School win the baseball and basketball championships, defeating bigger, richer, whiter teams across the state. Now, Wil Haygood gives us a spirited and stirring account of this improbable triumph and takes us deep into the personal lives of these local heroes: Robert Wright, power forward, whose father was a murderer; Kenny Mizelle, the Tigers’ second baseman, who grew up under the false impression that his father had died; Eddie "Rat" Ratleff, the star of both teams, who would play for the 1972 U.S. Olympic basketball team. We meet Jack Gibbs, the first black principal at East High; Bob Hart, the white basketball coach, determined to fight against the injustices he saw inflicting his team; the hometown fans who followed the Tigers to stadiums across the state. And, just as important, Haygood puts the Tigers’ story in the context of the racially charged late 1960s. The result is both an inspiring sports story and a singularly illuminating social history.

Nominee - Poetry

Approaching the Fields: Poems
by Chanda Feldman

Publication Date: Feb 05, 2018
List Price: $16.95
Format: Paperback, 64 pages
Classification: Poetry
ISBN13: 9780807168295
Imprint: LSU Press
Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
Parent Company: Louisiana State University

Read a Description of Approaching the Fields: Poems


Book Description: 
In a cadence reminiscent of old gospel rhythms rising from deeper reflections on the evolution of self and culture, the poet evokes her memories of family and history, sans sentimentalism. With heartfelt precision, Feldman builds the book to its shining summit, a testimony to getting through to an understanding of what it is to stand in awe of an awareness of how love persists. Approaching the Fields is a beautifully crafted book of courage gone, courage now taking breath, and courage yet to come.—Afaa M. Weaver

Nominee - Poetry

Pardon My Heart: Poems
by Marcus Jackson

Publication Date: Apr 15, 2018
List Price: $16.95
Format: Paperback, 80 pages
Classification: Poetry
ISBN13: 9780810136915
Imprint: TriQuarterly Books
Publisher: Northwestern University Press
Parent Company: Northwestern University

Read a Description of Pardon My Heart: Poems


Book Description: 
Pardon My Heart is an exploration of love in the contemporary African American ethos. In this lyrically complex collection, the speakers and subjects—the adult descendants of the Great Migration—reckon with past experiences and revelatory, hard-earned ideas about race and class.

With a compelling blend of narrative, musicality, and imagery, Jackson’s poems span a multitude of scenes, landscapes, and sensations. Pardon My Heart examines intimacy, memory, grief, and festivity while seeking out new, reflective sectors within emotion and culture. By means of concise portraiture and sonic vibrancy, Jackson’s poems ultimately express the urgency and pliability of the human soul.


Nominee - Poetry

Divida
by Monica Hand

Publication Date: Apr 17, 2018
List Price: $15.95
Format: Paperback, 100 pages
Classification: Poetry
ISBN13: 9781938584749
Imprint: Alice James Books
Publisher: Alice James Books
Parent Company: University of Maine at Farmington

Read a Description of Divida


Book Description: 
"DiVida: divided; DiVida: of life" The imaginary character who carries the name and sings her life is both DiVida and Sapphire, who sometimes replies to her musings, as one voice speaking for a universe of black women. Like syncopated masks, the voices of Hand’s book offer a new sense of double-consciousness. Her untimely death at the zenith of her career lends the last few poems, which anticipate death, a special fullness and poignancy." —Marilyn Nelson