This was the second annual National Book Awards telecast due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Ms. Robinson recording from Penguin Random House in New York City, and authors and presenters telecasting. In years past, hundreds of attendees have celebrated at a black tie party on Cipriani Wall Street.
“If there is ever a time that confirms the extraordinary experiences that books provide, the past 20 months have passed,” said Ruth Dickey, executive director of the National Book Foundation.
Among the finalists for the Fiction Prize was “The Matrix” by Lauren Groff, about a young orphaned woman turned into a poor nun’s convent. “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr, a novel that covers several centuries, two continents and one interstellar ship; “Zorrie,” Laird Hunt, portrait of a woman’s life in rural Indiana; and “Prophets” by Robert Jones Jr., a love story about two enslaved men on an antebellum plantation.
Among the non-fiction book finalists was A Little Devil in America, a collection of essays written by Hanif Abdel Raqeb to celebrate black artists and artists. “Out” by Lucas Besser, on the Kansas aquifer at risk of depletion and its impact on farmers and ranchers in the area; Tastes Like War, a memoir by Grace M. Chu, which cooks up family recipes as she explores how war, xenophobia, and colonialism transfer to the body; and “Covered With Night” by Nicole Eustace about the murder case of an aboriginal fisherman in the 18th century.
Martin Espada won a poetry prize for “Floats,” a book that honors immigrants who drowned in the Rio Grande. The judges said it is “vital for our times and will be vital for those in the future, trying to understand today.”
The translated literature award went to “Winter in Sokcho”, a debut novel by Elisa Chua Dussabin, translated from French by Anissa Abbas Higgins, and set in a South Korean resort.