Off the Shelf: The 68th National Book Awards

By Sharon Saye on November 15, 2017 from Off the Shelf via

Finalists for the National Book Awards were announced in October.  The winners will be announced on November 15th at the 68th National Book Awards Ceremony in New York City hosted by Cynthia Nixon of “Sex and the City” fame.  Publishers submitted a total of 1529 books for this year’s National Book Awards.  Judges’ decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff.  To be eligible for a 2017 National Book Award, a book must have been published in the United States between December 1, 2016 and November 30, 2017 and must have been written by a United States citizen.
The nominations for fiction include: “Dark at the Crossing” by Elliot Ackerman, “The Leavers” by Lisa Ko, “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee, “Her Body and Other Parties: Stories” by Carmen Maria Machado and “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward.  According to a release from the National Book Awards, “Elliot Ackerman’s “Dark at the Crossing,” an Arab American man attempting to enter Syria wrestles with loss, grief and redemption...Lisa Ko’s “The Leavers” tells the story of a son and the mother who abandoned him, “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee chronicles the lives of a Korean family forced from their homeland.  Carmen Maria Machado’s story collection, “Her body and Other Parties” is an eerie and provocative debut that delves into the realities and violence of women’s lives, and  Jesmyn Ward’s “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” her first novel since her 2011 National Book Award for Fiction, depicts a fractured Mississippi family struggling to stay connected as they road trip across the state.”
The non-fiction finalists are considerably varied:  Erica Armstrong Dunbar for “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ono Judge”, Frances FitzGerald for “The Evangelicals: the Struggle to Shape America,” Masha Gessen for “The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” David Grann for “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” and Nancy MacLean for “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.”
“Never Caught” is the amazing story of a woman who escaped slavery only to be endlessly pursued by her former owners, George and Martha Washington.  “The Evangelicals” by former National Book Award Winner, Frances FitzGerald, looks at how evangelicals have influenced our nation.  Masha Gessen’s book focuses on four Russian-born people who provide a special view of the reemergence of dictatorship in modern Russia.  “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a crime story of a series of murders of wealthy Osage Indians in the 1920s that gave rise to what would become the FBI.  And “Democracy in Chains” looks at the rise of the radical right and their influence on modern politics.
Awards are also given out in poetry and young people’s literature.  Nominees for poetry include Frank Bidart for “Half-Light,” Leslie Harrison for “The Book of Endings,” Layli Long Soldier for “Whereas,” Shane McCrae for “In the Language of My Captor” and Danez Smith for “Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems.” 
For Young People’s Literature the nominees are: Elana K. Arnold, “What Girls Are Made Of,” Robin Benway, “Far from the Tree,” Erika L. Sanchez “I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” Rita Williams-Garcia, “Clayton Byrd Goes Underground,” and Ibi  Zoboi, “American Street.”

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