Books Honored by the National Book Foundation
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.
4 Books Honored by the National Book Foundation in 2013
Winner - Fiction
The Good Lord Bird
by James McBride
- Selected for 1 Book Club’s Reading List
- 2014 BCALA Literary Award
- A New York Times Notable Book for 2013
Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.
From the bestselling author of The Color of Water and Song Yet Sung comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade—and who must pass as a girl to survive.
Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti and pro slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.
Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859—one of the great catalysts for the Civil War. An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.
Finalist - Poetry
The Big Smoke (Poets, Penguin)
by Adrian Matejka
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
List Price: $18.00
Format: Paperback, 128 pages
Imprint: Penguin Books
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and the National Book Award in Poetry—a collection that examines the myth and history of the prizefighter Jack Johnson
The legendary Jack Johnson (1878-1946) was a true American creation. The child of emancipated slaves, he overcame the violent segregationism of Jim Crow, challenging white boxers—and white America—to become the first African-American heavyweight world champion. The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka’s third work of poetry, follows the fighter’s journey from poverty to the most coveted title in sports through the multi-layered voices of Johnson and the white women he brazenly loved. Matejka’s book is part historic reclamation and part interrogation of Johnson’s complicated legacy, one that often misremembers the magnetic man behind the myth.
Longlist - Poetry
Bury My Clothes, a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for poetry, is a meditation on violence, race, and the place in art at which they intersect. Art?specifically in oppressed communities?is about survival, Roger Bonair-Agard asserts, and establishing personhood in a world that says you have none. Through poetry, we transform both the world of art and the world itself.
Roger Bonair-Agard is a Cave Canem fellow, two-time National Poetry Slam Champion, and author of Tarnish and Masquerade and Gully. He has appeared three times on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and is Co-founder and Artistic Director of the LouderARTS Project in New York.
Longlist - Young People’s Literature
The Summer Prince
by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Publication Date: Jul 29, 2014
List Price: $9.99
Format: Paperback, 289 pages
Target Age Group: Middle Grade
Imprint: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Parent Company: Scholastic Inc.
The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.
Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.
Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this fiery novel will leave you eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson.