National Book Award 2021 Winners and Finalists

Book covers of All That She Carried, Hell of a Book, Floaters, Winter in Sokcho, and Last Night at the Telegraph Hotel

Covers of the winners of the National Book Awards 2021. 

Every year the National Book Foundation presents the National Book Awards to honor some of the best books published that year. The five judges for the award this year consisted of four published authors and one librarian. They chose winners in five categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature and Young People’s Literature. In addition to the winners they published the long list and finalists from which the winners were chosen. I created a spreadsheet with all of the finalist and longlist books that we possess in the collection including links to our catalog. There are print, audiobooks and e-books represented. A lot of the print books are checked out already, but if you use the Get This button you can recall the items or get the books through interlibrary loan. Now, without further ado, the winners. 

 

Fiction Winner

Hell of a book by Jason Mott

The central storyline is of “a Black author who sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. The book also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour. As these characters' stories build and build and converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art and money, it's also about the nation's reckoning with a tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America. Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind?” -- Provided by publisher.

 

Nonfiction Winner

All that she carried: the journey of Ashley's sack, a black family keepsake by Tiya Miles. Also available in audiobook.

"Sitting in the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is a rough cotton bag, called "Ashley's Sack," embroidered with just a handful of words that evoke a sweeping family story of loss and of love passed down through generations. In 1850s South Carolina, just before nine-year-old Ashley was sold, her mother, Rose, gave her a sack filled with just a few things as a token of her love. Decades later, Ashley's granddaughter, Ruth, embroidered this history on the bag--including Rose's message that "It be filled with my Love always." Historian Tiya Miles carefully follows faint archival traces back to Charleston to find Rose in the kitchen where she may have packed the sack for Ashley. From Rose's last resourceful gift to her daughter, Miles then follows the paths their lives and the lives of so many like them took to write a unique, innovative history of the lived experience of slavery in the United States. The contents of the sack--a tattered dress, handfuls of pecans, a braid of hair, "my Love always"--Speak volumes and open up a window on Rose and Ashley's world. As she follows Ashley's journey, Miles metaphorically "unpacks" the sack, deepening its emotional resonance and revealing the meanings and significance of everything it contained. These include the story of enslaved labor's role in the cotton trade and apparel crafts and the rougher cotton "negro cloth" that was left for enslaved people to wear; the role of the pecan in nutrition, survival, and southern culture; the significance of hair to Black women and of locks of hair in the nineteenth century; and an exploration of Black mothers' love and the place of emotion in history"-- Provided by publisher

 

Poetry Winner

Floaters by Martín Espada. 

"From the winner of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize come masterfully crafted narratives of protest, grief, and love. In this collection, Martín Espada bears witness to confrontation with anti-immigrant bigotry as a tenant lawyer years ago, and now sings the praises of Central American adolescents playing soccer in an internment camp founded on that same bigotry. He knows that times of hate also call for poems of love-even in the voice of a Galápagos tortoise. Whether celebrating the visions of fallen dreamers and poets or condemning the devastation of Hurricane Maria and official negligence in his father's Puerto Rico, Espada invokes ferocious, incandescent spirits"-- Provided by publisher.


 

Translated Literature Winner

Winter in Sokcho by Aneesa Abbas Higgins; translated by Elisa Shua Dusapin. Also available in ebook

“It's winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, beyond the beach guns point out from the North's watchtowers. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape. The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an "authentic" Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls, and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows--the gaudy neon lights, the scars of war, the fish market where her mother works. As she's pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen.” --Provided by publisher

 

Young People’s Literature Winner

Last night at the telegraph club (ebook) by Malinda Lo.

I read this book earlier this year and cannot recommend it enough. “Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can't remember exactly when the feeling took root—that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible. 

But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.” -- Overdrive synopsis.