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By Elizabeth Sile
November 16, 2017
amazon.com

Last night, the National Book Foundation hosted its 68th annual National Book Awards (NBA) in New York City. The awards, which are presented in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, young people’s literature, and poetry, are considered one of the country's most prestigious literary awards. Winners receive a bronze statue and medal and $10,000.

This year, Jesmyn Ward won her second NBA in fiction for Sing, Unburied, Sing ($17; amazon.com), her devastating, yet lyrical novel about a black family in Mississippi that goes on a road trip to reunite with the family patriarch when he is released from prison. In her acceptance speech, she talked about overcoming rejection and having to advocate for her characters and their stories.

“Throughout my career when I've been rejected, there was sometimes subtext, and it was this: ‘People will not read your work because these are not universal stories,’” she said. “You, my fellow writers and editors and publishing people and National Book Foundation folks who read my work, you answered plainly…. I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you who reads my work and finds something that sings to you, that moves you in it.”

In the nonfiction category, The Future Is History ($18; amazon.com), Masha Gessen’s timely book about totalitarianism in Russia, won the award. Frank Bidart’s Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 ($29; amazon.com), received the NBA for poetry. The winner in the young people’s literature category, Robin Benway’s Far from the Tree ($11; amazon.com), tells the story of a Grace, an adoptee who finds her biological siblings. Richard Robinson, president and CEO of the children’s book publisher Scholastic was also honored with the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for his commitment to children’s literacy in the U.S. and around the world.

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