Jesmyn Ward, Frank Bidart Among The Winners : The Two-Way : NPR


Updated at 11:05 p.m. ET

At a glitzy gala in New York City on Wednesday night time, 4 writers emerged with one of many world’s most illustrious literary prizes, the National Book Award: Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing, received for fiction; Masha Gessen’s The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, for nonfiction; Frank Bidart’s Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016, for poetry; and Robin Benway’s Far from the Tree, for younger individuals’s literature.

In addition to a bronze medal and statue, every winner receives $10,000 with the excellence. That mentioned, the finalists do not go residence bereft — every creator will get $1,000 and a bronze medal of their very own.

You can discover the complete record of finalists on the backside of this web page, with the winners highlighted in daring.

Ward’s National Book Award marked her second time successful the prize, after her novel Salvage the Bones received in 2011. But she mentioned in her acceptance speech she’s additionally acquired a good quantity of rejections.

“Throughout my career, when I have been rejected, there was sometimes subtext, and it was this: People will not read your work because these are not universal stories. I don’t know whether some doorkeepers felt this way because I wrote about poor people or because I wrote about black people or because I wrote about Southerners. As my career progressed and I got some affirmations, I still encountered that mindset every now and again,” Ward informed the group.

To those that requested what they they might probably have in frequent together with her characters, “you answered, ‘Plenty,’ ” she informed the opposite authors, editors and booksellers badembled within the room. “You looked at me, at the people I love and write about, you looked at my poor, my black, my Southern children, women and men — and you saw yourself. You saw your grief, your love, your losses, your regrets, your joy, your hope.”

Writing Mississippi: Jesmyn Ward Salvages Stories Of The Silenced

'Sing' Mourns The Dead, Both Buried And Unburied

Gessen, for her half, expressed shock The Future Is History, an exhaustive chronicle of 4 lives within the midst of a totalitarian reemergence in Russia, got here away with the nonfiction prize. “I never thought a Russia book could actually be longlisted or shortlisted for the National Book Award,” she famous in her acceptance. “But of course things have, um, changed.”

Bidart didn’t win the lifetime achievement award — extra on that award later — however you might be forgiven for seeing his poetry prize as one thing related. Bidart’s Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 gathered work from eight books’ value of fabric, a profession of greater than 5 a long time, right into a single authoritative quantity.

It was not simply a lifetime of poetry contained on this ebook, but additionally a life made by poetry, Bidart prompt. “I realized during the past month that I’m almost twice as old as any of the other finalists. Writing the poems,” Bidart informed the group in New York City, “was how I survived.”

“One premise of art is that anything personal, seen deeply enough, becomes general, becomes impersonal,” he added. “I hope that the journeys these poems go on will help others to survive, as well.”

The younger individuals’s literature prize went to Benway’s Far from the Tree, a narrative of an adoptee seeking her organic siblings — and the way their understanding of household shifts amid their tough makes an attempt at reunion. The author of a half-dozen younger grownup novels, Benway centered her acceptance speech on her family — particularly these relations she has misplaced just lately, with out shedding the teachings they supplied.

Her grandmother taught her “creativity is not inspiration, it’s not that bolt of lightning,” Benway mentioned. “It’s about getting up and making the coffee and getting to work to find the room that that lightning lit up for them for that one moment.”

“I’m really good at making the coffee,” she added. “I’m trying to get better at that last thing.”

Earlier within the night time, the prevailing theme among the many beforehand introduced winners was clear: the notion of the ebook as a beacon in a tough time.

“We don’t live in the best of all possible worlds. We live in a Kafkaesque time,” mentioned Annie Proulx, the novelist who received the medal for distinguished contribution to American letters, the National Book Foundation’s barely verbose identify for his or her lifetime achievement award.

Proulx added the excellence Wednesday night time to an already lengthy record of honors, having racked up just about each main award dedicated to American writers. Proulx’s “epic, singular talent” — within the phrases of the lady who launched her, actress Anne Hathaway — had already earned her one other National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for her 1993 novel, The Shipping News.

Our time might look bleak, Proulx mentioned in her acceptance speech, itemizing ills from the destruction of the setting to more and more tribal political divisions, “but we keep on trying — because there’s nothing else to do.”

She proposed hope, the “indispensable silver lining” books can supply. As she famous, that hope might be seen embodied even in her presence on the stage. Although she could also be receiving a lifetime achievement award, “I didn’t start writing until I was 58,” she mentioned. “So if you’ve been thinking about it and putting it off, go ahead.”

Scholastic President and CEO Richard Robinson, talking earlier than Proulx in receiving the literarian award for excellent service to the American literary group, famous that he certainly had tried writing: “I always wanted to receive a prize for a novel,” he mentioned, smiling, “and I wrote several of them — unpublished.”

Instead, for many years he has stood on the helm of Scholastic, a publishing firm based by his father in 1920 and geared towards youngsters’s literature. Robinson, who was launched by former President Bill Clinton, mentioned his mission at Scholastic has been — and can proceed to be — guaranteeing equal entry to schooling and opening books to a big selection of experiences: “That’s an old story that’s always new.”

“We must make sure all schools have the resources they need to lift all children,” he mentioned.

Then, he supplied one other observe of hope to stability Proulx’s.

“Tonight’s battle cry: reading for all.”


Elliot Ackerman: Dark on the Crossing
Lisa Ko: The Leavers
Min Jin Lee: Pachinko
Carmen Maria Machado: Her Body and Other Parties: Stories
Jesmyn Ward: Sing, Unburied, Sing


Erica Armstrong Dunbar: Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge
Frances FitzGerald: The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America
Masha Gessen: The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia
David Grann: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
Nancy MacLean: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America


Frank Bidart: Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016
Leslie Harrison: The Book of Endings
Layli Long Soldier: WHEREAS
Shane McCrae: In the Language of My Captor
Danez Smith: Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems

Young People’s Literature

Elana Ok. Arnold: What Girls Are Made Of
Robin Benway: Far from the Tree
Erika L. Sánchez: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Rita Williams-Garcia: Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
Ibi Zoboi: American Street

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