National Book awards: Jason Mott wins US literary prize for ‘masterful’ novel Hell of a Book | Books

North Carolina writer Jason Mott won the 2021 National Book Foundation Prize for his novel “The Inferno of a Book.”

The American Foundation’s 72nd annual awards, presented online only due to Covid-19, were announced Wednesday night.

The Foundation described Mott’s book as a “witty novel” that broke new ground: “a bold structural and conceptual study of art… [which] Somehow he manages the impossible trick of being playful, insightful, and deeply moving at the same time. “

The novel intertwines the narratives of an author on a book tour (inspired by Mott’s own experiences), and a young black boy named Sot, who is relentlessly bullied by other children because of the darkness of his skin.

Mott said Hell of a Book is also inspired by the wave of black killings by American police in recent years, and what that means for a black man trying to keep himself safe on the streets of America.

“I would like to dedicate this award to all the other crazy kids, to all the strangers, the eccentrics, the bullies, and the weirdos that they had no choice but to be misunderstood by the world and those around them,” Mott said in his acceptance speech.

“[This award is dedicated to] Those who, however, refuse to transcend their imaginations, refuse to give up on their dreams and refuse to deny or downplay their identity, truth, or love. Unlike many others.”

Jason Mott, author of The Book of Hell. Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Mott is best known for his 2013 bestselling debut novel The Returned, about the resurgence of dead residents in a Missouri town, which was later adapted into the American television series Apocalypse.

Harvard historian Tia Miles won the National Book Award for her non-fiction book All That It Holds. For this book, Miles traces the source of Case Ashley: a mid-19th century piece of cloth embroidered with a message about the sale of slaves to a nine-year-old girl.

“My grandmother Rose, Ashley’s mother, gave her this bag when it was sold at the age of nine, in South Carolina,” Embroidery Books.

“She was wearing a tattered dress, three handfuls of pecans, and a braid of Rose’s hair. He told her, ‘Always filled my love. You never saw her again. Ashley is my grandmother. Ruth Middleton, 1921.'”

The bag is now in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

History professor and author Tia Miles
Harvard professor of history Tia Miles won the 2021 National Book Award for non-fiction books.
Photo: Jeffrey Suger/Getty Images/Courtesy of John D and the Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The National Book Award for Youth Literature went to Malinda Law for Last Night at the Telegraph Club, a novel about the challenges faced by LGBTQ youth, part of which is written in Chinese.

In an enthusiastic acceptance speech, Lu said the number of youth books published with LGBTQ personalities has grown significantly in the past decade.

“But opposition to our stories has also grown,” she said.

“This year, schools across the United States are facing significant right-wing pressure to remove books about people of color, LGBT, and especially transgender people from classrooms and libraries.

“I urge all of you watching to educate themselves about your school boards and vote in local elections… We need your support to keep our stories on the shelves. Don’t let them erase us.”

Latin poet Martin Espada won the National Book Award for his poetry collection Floats.

The National Book Award for Literature in Translation went to Anisa Abbas Higgins for her translation of Elisa Chua Dusapin’s book Winter in Sokcho, from French to English.

Outstanding Women Contributing

Two Lifetime Achievement Medals were also awarded.

Karen T. Yamashita, author of the novels Hotel I, Tropic of Orange and Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, received the medal for her distinguished contribution to American letters.

The Japanese-American writer said that politics and resistance were at the heart of Asian-American literature.

“For our society, your recognition tonight is important, especially this post-pandemic year, having survived the ridiculous tweeting, corruption and lies, the brutality of racial profiling and the provocation of anti-immigrant, refugee, Muslim and anti-Asian hate.

“At times like these, I hope our writing forges tolerance and caring.”

Karen T Yamashita Books
Works by Karen Tai Yamashita, 2021 National Book Foundation Medal Winner for Outstanding Contribution to American Letters. Photo: AP

Nancy Pearl, writer, literary critic, and former executive director of the Washington Book Center at the Seattle Public Library, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Medal for Outstanding Service to the Literary Community.

Pearl is best known for her bestseller: Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason (2003), and as the founder of the worldwide One City One Book Project.

“I dedicate this to librarians who do such essential work for their communities,” she said.

“One of the fundamental principles of the public library is that it is a truly equal institution, freely available to all regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age or economic status.

As such, it is a democratic and unifying force in our society, which is needed now more than ever.

Washington Post book critic Ron Charles, when announcing the Pearl Award, declared that Pearl represented the ideal of a librarian.

“Activist for the unbridled pleasure of reading,” he said, “it is not a custodian of treasures.” “She’s the orchard farmer.”

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