National Book Award Winners
The winners of the National Book Awards, presented last night in New York, are:
Fiction: The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (Riverhead)
Nunez said in part, "I was lucky enough as a child to have had a mother and teachers who taught me that whatever happened in life, however bad things might get, I could always escape by reading a book. I was lucky enough to keep on meeting them, people who believed that reading and writing were the best things a person could do with her life. And to learn what Alan Bennett was getting at when he said that for a writer, nothing is ever quite as bad as it is for other people, because however dreadful, it may be of use. I became a writer not because I was seeking community but rather because I thought it was something I could do alone and hidden in the privacy of my own room. How lucky to have discovered that writing books made the miraculous possible: to be removed from the world and to be a part of the world at the same time. And tonight how happy I am to feel a part of the world."
Nonfiction: The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart (Oxford University Press)
Stewart said in part, "If [Locke] was here right now accepting this award, he wouldn't have a family with him. As a gay man who lived a closeted life, he had many struggles and one of them was with a tremendous, crushing loneliness. And so when I stand here, I think about his achievement. And what it was was to create a family among writers and artists and dancers and dramatists and call them the New Negro, the basis for a new creative future, not just for black people, a New Negro for a new America. Thank you, Alain Locke."
Poetry: Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed (Coffee House Press)
Reed said in part, "I want to feel a fullness, to love the vast proliferation of the voices and blurred countenances that have made it possible for me and for you with me to have libraries, to realize the tremendous intersection of lives and languages that a single one of those voices and faces represents and how recognizing each of the lives beyond those in fact magnifies each of us. That could be so joyful."
Translated Literature: The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, translated from Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani (New Directions)
Unable to attend the awards because of commitments in Japan, Tawada sent a message saying in part, "Translation gives a book wings to fly across national borders."
Young People's Literature: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen)
Acevedo said in part, "I walk through the world with a chip on my shoulder. I go into so many spaces where I feel like I have to prove that I am allowed to be in that space. As the child of immigrants, as a black woman, as a Latina, as someone whose accented voice holds certain neighborhoods, whose body holds certain stories, I always feel like I have to prove that I'm worthy enough and there will never be an award or accolade that would take that away. That is how I walk in the world. But every single time I meet a reader who looks at me and says 'I have never seen my story until I read yours,' I am reminded of why this matters. And that it's not going to be an award or an accolade. It's going to be looking at someone in the face and saying, 'I see you,' and in return be told, 'I am seen.' And so thank you so much to the readers who time and again remind me why I took this leap, why it matters, and why books matter."