Charles Yu gained the National Book Award for fiction on Wednesday for his mind-bending satire, “Interior Chinatown,” a sendup of Hollywood and Asian-American stereotypes.
The nonfiction award went to “The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X,” a deeply researched biography by Les Payne and his daughter Tamara Payne. In an emotional acceptance speech, Ms. Payne, who researched the ebook alongside her father and completed it after his death in 2018, thanked him “for committing to this enormous work” and “for bringing me on as his co-pilot.”
“This is such a bittersweet moment,” she mentioned. “I really wish my father was here for this.”
In regular occasions, the National Book Awards ceremony is a lavish, black-tie affair held at Cipriani Wall Street, with a ceremony that pulls probably the most highly effective folks in publishing and a constellation of literary stars. This yr, as with so many cultural occasions that had been scrambled on account of the pandemic, the ceremony was held on-line, streamed on YouTube and the National Book Foundation’s website.
The awards, now of their 71st yr, had been hosted by Jason Reynolds, a best-selling youngsters’s ebook writer and two-time National Book Award finalist.
The National Book Award, which dates again to 1950, is without doubt one of the most prestigious literary prizes on the earth and has been given to literary icons like W.H. Auden, Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.
The temper this yr was nonetheless upbeat, even nearly, as a a lot bigger digital viewers joined the celebration, which generally attracts round 700 folks in particular person.
“It’s hard in a pandemic,” Lisa Lucas, the chief director of the National Book Foundation, mentioned in a video handle. “We were scared we wouldn’t be able to do this show, and here we are.”
This yr’s awards ceremony, which passed off because the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge internationally, offered greater than a second of levity for the literary world. For struggling authors and booksellers, who’ve seen their sales plummet this year, literary prizes just like the National Book Awards and Booker Prize can draw much-needed consideration to titles which have been missed.
While brand-name authors and large publishing companies have seen wholesome gross sales this yr — print gross sales are up by seven p.c this yr over 2019 — many smaller, unbiased publishing homes and lesser-known writers have struggled, as universities and bookstores throughout the United States have closed, reducing off very important avenues for reaching readers.
More than half of the finalists this yr had been launched by unbiased publishers and tutorial presses. Eight of the 25 finalists had been debuts.
Fiction finalists included Rumaan Alam’s quiet and eerie apocalyptic home drama, “Leave the World Behind”; Deesha Philyaw’s brief story assortment, “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies”; Lydia Millet’s “A Children’s Bible,” a novel that explores the chaos of local weather change; and Douglas Stuart’s autobiographical novel “Shuggie Bain,” which is about in Nineteen Eighties Glasgow and was additionally a Booker finalist.
Finalists for the nonfiction award included Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s “The Undocumented Americans,” a deeply reported narrative in regards to the lives of immigrants; Claudio Saunt’s “Unworthy Republic,” which explores the implications of the 1830 Indian Removal Act; Jerald Walker’s “How to Make a Slave and Other Essays,” by which he displays on his experiences with racism; and Jenn Shapland’s unconventional biography “My Autobiography of Carson McCullers,” which examines the hidden love lifetime of the Southern author.
The award for younger folks’s literature went to Kacen Callender for “King and the Dragonflies,” which encompasses a Black boy who’s struggling within the wake of his brother’s dying.
The prize for translated literature went to Yu Miri’s novel “Tokyo Ueno Station,” which was translated from Japanese by Morgan Giles, and is narrated by a ghost who visits a park the place he lived when he was homeless.
The award for translated literature — a class that was added in 2018 — this yr included works written in Arabic, Spanish, German and Swedish. They had been Pilar Quintana’s “The Bitch,” a couple of Colombian lady’s relationship with an orphaned pet; “High as the Waters Rise,” a debut novel about an oil rig employee by the German poet Anja Kampmann; Adania Shibli’s “Minor Detail,” which facilities on a girl in Ramallah who decides to research the decades-old homicide of a Palestinian teenager; and Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s novel, “The Family Clause,” a couple of painful household reunion in Stockholm.
The award for poetry went to the poet and translator Don Mee Choi’s assortment “DMZ Colony,” a collage of survivor accounts, prose, and quotations with images and drawings that takes its identify from Korea’s Demilitarized Zone.
The Literarian Award, which acknowledges the recipient’s contributions to the American literary neighborhood, was awarded posthumously to Carolyn Reidy, the Simon & Schuster chief government who died in May. The award, which was accepted by Ms. Reidy’s husband, Stephen Reidy, was introduced by individuals who labored carefully with Ms. Reidy — together with the writer Bob Woodward, who mentioned of Ms. Reidy, “Carolyn was through and through a book person.”
The novelist Walter Mosley, who is probably greatest recognized for his thriller collection that includes the detective Easy Rawlins, acquired the inspiration’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a lifetime achievement award that beforehand has gone to Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo and Ursula Okay. Le Guin. Mr. Mosley, who’s the primary Black man to obtain the award in its 32 yr historical past, remarked on how lengthy overdue that milestone was: “One might be cowed by the monumental negative space surrounding the pinprick of light that this award represents,” he mentioned. “Is this a dying gasp or a first breath?”
Charles Yu Wins National Book Award for ‘Interior Chinatown’ Wire Services/ Pehal News.