Books Honored by the National Book Awards
The mission of the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America. Since 1996, independent panels of five writers have chosen the National Book Award winners in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature.
The first African-American writer to win a National Book Award was Ralph Ellison for Invisible Man.
Check Out AALBC.com’s Coverage of the National Book Awards: 2017 – 2016 – 2015 – 2014 – 2013
6 Books Honored by the National Book Awards in 2018
Finalist – Nonfiction
The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke
by Jeffrey C. Stewart
Publication Date: Feb 01, 2018
List Price: $39.95 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: x944
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Parent Company: University of Oxford
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.
“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
Finalist – Poetry
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (Penguin Poets)
by Terrance Hayes
Publication Date: Jun 19, 2018
List Price: $18.00 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: x112
Imprint: Penguin Books
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC
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 – Young People’s Literature
The Journey of Little Charlie
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Publication Date: Jan 30, 2018
List Price: $16.99 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: x256
Imprint: Scholastic Press
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Parent Company: Scholastic Inc.
Twelve-year-old Charlie is down on his luck: His sharecropper father just died and Cap’n Buck — the most fearsome man in Possum Moan, South Carolina — has come to collect a debt. Fearing for his life, Charlie strikes a deal with Cap’n Buck and agrees to track down some folks accused of stealing from the cap’n and his boss. It’s not too bad of a bargain for Charlie… until he comes face-to-face with the fugitives and discovers their true identities. Torn between his guilty conscience and his survival instinct, Charlie needs to figure out his next move — and soon. It’s only a matter of time before Cap’n Buck catches on.
Finalist – Fiction
Heads of the Colored People: Stories
by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Publication Date: Jan 22, 2019
List Price: $16.00 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: x224
Imprint: Atria / 37 Ink
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation
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).
Longlist – Fiction
An American Marriage: A Novel
by Tayari Jones
- 1 Time AALBC.com Bestselling Book!
- Selected for 3 Book Clubs’s Reading Lists
- Honored by the National Book Awards in 2018
Publication Date: Feb 06, 2018
List Price: $26.95 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: x320
Imprint: Algonquin Books
Publisher: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
Parent Company: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
An American Marriage is the newest Oprah’s Book Club selection!
Thank you, Oprah, for extending your hand to me and my new novel, An American Marriage. I am honored to join your book club and connect hearts and minds by raising our voices and telling our stories.”
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.
Longlist – Poetry
Monument: Poems New and Selected
by Natasha Trethewey
Publication Date: Nov 06, 2018
List Price: $26.00 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: x208
Imprint: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Parent Company: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award for Poetry
“[Trethewey’s poems] dig beneath the surface of history—personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago—to explore the human struggles that we all face.” —James H. Billington, 13th Librarian of Congress
Layering joy and urgent defiance—against physical and cultural erasure, against white supremacy whether intangible or graven in stone—Trethewey’s work gives pedestal and witness to unsung icons. Monument, Trethewey’s first retrospective, draws together verse that delineates the stories of working class African American women, a mixed-race prostitute, one of the first black Civil War regiments, mestizo and mulatto figures in Casta paintings, Gulf coast victims of Katrina. Through the collection, inlaid and inextricable, winds the poet’s own family history of trauma and loss, resilience and love.
In this setting, each section, each poem drawn from an “opus of classics both elegant and necessary,”* weaves and interlocks with those that come before and those that follow. As a whole, Monument casts new light on the trauma of our national wounds, our shared history. This is a poet’s remarkable labor to source evidence, persistence, and strength from the past in order to change the very foundation of the vocabulary we use to speak about race, gender, and our collective future.
*Academy of American Poets’ chancellor Marilyn Nelson