Books Honored by the National Book Foundation

National Book Award Medals

The mission of the National Book Foundation is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America. National Book Awards are given five categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature.

Here we highlight the winners of African descent. The first African-American writer to win a National Book Award was Ralph Ellison, in 1953, for Invisible Man.

Check Out AALBC’s Coverage of the National Book Awards:  20172016201520142013

3 Books Honored by the National Book Foundation in 1999

Winner - Poetry

Vice: New and Selected Poems
by Ai Ogawa

Publication Date: Jun 17, 2000
List Price: $21.00
Format: Paperback, 272 pages
Classification: Poetry
ISBN13: 9780393320183
Imprint: W. W. Norton & Company
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Parent Company: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Read a Description of Vice: New and Selected Poems

Book Description: 

Collected here are poems from Ai’s previous five books’Cruelty, Killing Floor, Sin, Fate, and Greed’along with seventeen new poems. Employing her trademark ferocity, these new dramatic monologues continue to mine this award-winning poet’s "often brilliant" (Chicago Tribune) vision.

An Excerpt from Vice

A Fiction

Memory is a highway,
where a car is speeding into the sunset.
The man inside that car has a gun.
He says he’ll shoot himself
and be done with it, be dead,
but in the end, he doesn’t do it.
If he had, the path to the truth
would have led straight from the gate
outside his ex-wife’s house,
not end run around it,
leaving a trail of blood
the prosecution says is proof
that he used his power, his juice
to seduce death
by handing her two sacrifices,
but she promised what she would never deliver.
She left him a pair of loaded dice
and severed their connection
with one well-practiced slice.

Now in his cell,
he reads fan letters.
He doesn’t dwell on the past.
If he did, he’d tell you to always go for broke,
because a man who can’t do the distance is a joke,
is a failure.
"You can quote me on that," he says aloud,
then shocked by the sound of his own voice,
chokes back a cry.
When he looks himself in the eye,
he jsut sees a regular guy.
He sees a parade going by.
On the largest float,
the homecoming queen waves to the crowd.
She’s a statuesque blond.
He’s a football hero.
He’s also a black man,
but that is no obstacle.
It’s a license to do the impossible.
He waves back.
Maybe that isn’t really what happened,
but it’s close and he makes the most of it,
when he can see through the smoke
of his desire and rage.
In a flash
he feels the diamonds of hope,
cutting the smooth glass of his mind
into halfs and quarters,
as he runs backward in time,
a football tucked under his arm,
as he crosses the goal line,
only to find the stands are empty
and he is alone in the field.
Concealed in the ball is a bomb.
All he has to do to explode it is throw.
He listens to the silence inhaling,
then he lets go.
That’s when the crowd appears
and over the loudspeaker
he hears his coach, saying, "Buddy, come on home,"
but home is the scene of the crime,
shown on TV so many times
that the murderer and victims cease to exist,
except in peripheral vision
and in the void between goalposts,
thirty-two bits and pieces of his life.
are all that survive of the knife.

(c) 1999 by Ai. All rights reserved.

Finalist - Poetry

Configurations: New & Selected Poems, 1958-1998
by Clarence Major

    Publication Date: Sep 01, 1998
    List Price: $20.00
    Format: Paperback, 375 pages
    Classification: Poetry
    ISBN13: 9781556590900
    Imprint: Copper Canyon Press
    Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
    Parent Company: Copper Canyon Press

    Read a Description of Configurations: New & Selected Poems, 1958-1998

    Book Description: 
    Finalist for the National Book Award

    Drawing his most outstanding work from nine previous volumes of award-winning poetry, Clarence Major had added a substantial body of new work to present a clear assessment of his forty-year career. By turns humorous and serious, Major is always richly lyrical while remaining precise in his observations. Line by line, his poems insist upon their own integrity, driven on by music as equally inspired by blues and jazz as it is by the Cantos of Ezra Pound.

    Born in Atlanta and raised in Chicago, Clarence Major is the author of eight previous volumes of poetry, eight novels, including Dirty Bird Blues (originally published in HC by Mercury House), several collections of short stories and nonfiction, and editor of two acclaimed anthologies of African-American literature. He teaches at the University of California, Davis.

    "Like the finest blues, Clarence Major is, by turns, hypnotic, exotic, and healthily erotic."—Al Young

    "[Clarence Major] writes poetry with the resistant, angular surface of tumbled brick. As if the poem had been literally smashed. An improvisational, jazz-like quality. Some tough, sharp observations."—Kirkus Reviews

    "Passionate [and] controlled lyricism… The prevailing tonality of the poetry is quiet, almost philosophical."—Library Journal

    Finalist - Young People’s Literature

    by Walter Dean Myers

    Publication Date: Dec 28, 2004
    List Price: $11.99
    Format: Paperback, 304 pages
    Classification: Fiction
    Target Age Group: Young Adult
    ISBN13: 9780064407311
    Imprint: Amistad
    Publisher: HarperCollins
    Parent Company: News Corporation

    Read a Description of Monster

    Book Description: 
    This New York Times bestselling novel and National Book Award nominee from acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial. Presented as a screenplay of Steve’s own imagination, and peppered with journal entries, the book shows how one single decision can change our whole lives.Fade In: Interior: Early Morning In Cell Block D, Manhattan Detention Center.Steve (Voice-Over)
    Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I’ll call it what the lady prosecutor called me … Monster.Supports the Common Core State Standards