National Book Awards 2018 Longlists: Young People’s Literature and Translation

In News by Porter Anderson

Ten books have named to each of the National Book Foundation’s 2018 longlists in young people’s literature and the widely welcomed new National Book Award in translated literature.

The National Book Awards’ 2018 longlisted titles for translated literature

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

The Tokarczuk-Croft ‘Flights’ Takes Off Again
In the first of its three days of annual longlist releases for the 2018 National Book Awards, the National Book Foundation today (September 12) has announced both its longlist in young people’s literature and in its all-new category of work translated into fiction and published in the United States.

Finalists are to be named on October 10. The winners are to be announced November 14 at the invitation-only awards ceremony in New York City. Per the foundation’s arrangement with The New Yorker, it releases its lists first to the magazine, and then to the rest of the news media.

The titles on the inaugural translated literature longlist span nine languages, with writers working in French, Spanish, Arabic, Tamil, Norwegian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, and Russian. The longlisted authors and translators live and work in many parts of the world, including Germany, France, India, Russia, and Argentina.

The list includes eight novels, one story collection, and one work of nonfiction. One title is a debut, the novel Disoriental.

A Much-Praised Addition to the National Book Awards

As Publishing Perspectives wrote at the end of January on the announcement of this newly created category, the new National Book Award for Translated Literature is not unlike the Man Booker International Prize, which similarly recognizes work translated into English and published in the UK.

Also like the Man Booker International (which is a different prize from the Man Booker Prize for Fiction), the new American award honors both a winning book’s author and translator, and is intended, according to the organization’s messaging to the press, “to broaden readership for global voices and spark dialogue around international stories.”

Of particular note in the newly released longlist, in fact, is the presence of Flights (US edition Penguin Random House/Riverhead, August) by the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk in its translation by Jennifer Croft, an American. Having won Warsaw’s highest honor, the Nike, in 2009, it’s a book that Tokarczuk told Publishing Perspectives in May that she’d believed had seen its day, only to discover it finding powerful new acclaim in the Fitzcarraldo Editions publication in the UK.

Praised for its soaring structure and evocations of curiosities and concepts from Chopin’s heart to travel-sized cosmetics, “Nothing is obvious with this book,” Tokarczuk said to us in an interview immediately after the Man Booker ceremony at the Victoria & Albert in London.

“We’re living in such a crazy world,” she said, “that we need to redefine what a novel is for us. It’s impossible to tell the story” of the book “from beginning to end, in a linear way.”

And now surrounding the personable Tokarczuk and Croft and their richly honored book are nine other sets of authors and translators. One of the 10 teams will become the National Book Awards’ first laureates in translation: a big step in the foundation’s important work.

“We are a nation of immigrants and we should never stop seeking connection and insight from the myriad cultures that consistently influence and inspire us.”Lisa Lucas, National Book Foundation

In the case of this prize category—again reflecting the procedures of the acclaimed Man Booker International Prize, the $10,000 prize is split evenly between the winning author and translator, in line with the industry’s growing understanding that translators—like illustrators—have been too long relegated to second-class status in the business and are to be recognized and honored as the indispensable collaborators they are.

According to the National Book Foundation’s spokespeople, publishers submitted a total 142 books for the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature.

Karen Maeda Allman, Sinan Antoon, Harold Augenbraum (chair), Susan Bernofsky, and Álvaro Enrigue are the jurors this year for translated literature. In each of the categories in the National Book Awards program, jurors work independently of the foundation and their deliberations are strictly confidential.

Particularly against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s policies, perceived by many as tireless assaults on the multiculturalism that’s essential to the American experiment, responses to the National Book Awards’ addition of the new category from industry players have been strongly supportive.

The next categories of longlist announcements to be made—on Thursday (September 13)—are poetry and nonfiction.

Europa, New Directions, and PRH: Two Titles Each

The longlist is alphabetized by author:

  • Négar DjavadiDisoriental, translated by Tina Kover, Europa Editions
  • Roque LarraquyComemadre, translated by Heather Cleary, Coffee House Press
  • Dunya MikhailThe Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq, translated by Dunya Mikhail and Max Weiss, New Directions Publishing
  • Perumal MuruganOne Part Woman, translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, Black Cat/Grove Atlantic
  • Hanne ØrstavikLove, translated by Martin Aitken, Archipelago Books
  • Gunnhild ØyehaugWait, Blink: A Perfect Picture of Inner Life, translated by Kari Dickson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan Publishers 
  • Domenico StarnoneTrick, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri, Europa Editions
  • Yoko Tawada, The Emissary, translated by Margaret Mitsutani, New Directions Publishing 
  • Olga TokarczukFlights, translated by Jennifer Croft, Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House
  • Tatyana Tolstaya, Aetherial Worlds, translated by Anya Migdal, Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House

In points of interest provided by the National Book Foundation in its media messaging about this longlist:

  • Two titles on the list concentrate on personal relationships—Tolstaya’s story collection Aetherial Worlds, translated from the Russian by Migdal, and Murugan’s One Part Woman, translated from the Tamil by Vasudevan
  • Only two authors on the list work in the same original language: Both Ørstavik and Øyehaug write in Norwegian. Ørstavik’s novel Love is translated from the Norwegian by Aitken, and Øyehaug’s Wait, Blink: A Perfect Picture of Inner Life is translated by Dickson
  • Displacement and travel are themes not only in the Tokarczuk-Croft Flights but also in Djavadi’s debut novel Disoriental, translated from the French by Kover
  • Mikhail’s The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq is the nonfiction longlisted entry, about women in northern Iraq and their arduous escapes from abuse, translated from the Arabic by Weiss and the author
  • Both Tolstaya’s story collection, Aetherial Worlds, translated from the Russian by Migdal, and Murugan’s One Part Woman, translated from the Tamil by Vasudevan, are focused on relationships
  • And Comemadre, translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary, is Larraquy’s first work to be translated into English, a tale of art and medicine in two narratives set a century apart

National Book Awards 2018 Longlist for Young People’s Literature

The National Book Awards’ 2018 longlisted titles for young people’s literature

Publishers submitted a total of 325 books for the 2018 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.

Jurors in the young people’s literature category are Robin Benway (chair), Lamar Giles, Grace Worcester Greene, Valerie Koehler, and Mitali Perkins.

HarperCollins Leads Youth Category With Four Titles

The longlist is alphabetized by author:

  • Elizabeth AcevedoThe Poet X, HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers
  • MT Anderson and Eugene YelchinThe Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, Candlewick Press
  • Bryan BlissWe’ll Fly Away, Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Publishers
  • Leslie ConnorThe Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers
  • Christopher Paul CurtisThe Journey of Little Charlie, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc.
  • Jarrett J. KrosoczkaHey, Kiddo, Graphix/Scholastic, Inc.
  • Tahereh MafiA Very Large Expanse of Sea, HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers
  • Joy McCullough, Blood Water Paint, Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin Random House 
  • Elizabeth PartridgeBoots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam, Viking Children’s Books/Penguin Random House
  • Vesper Stamper, What the Night Sings, Knopf Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House

Two of this year’s longlisted authors in the category have been previously recognized by the awards program.

  • MT Anderson won the award in 2006, was a finalist in 2002, and was longlisted in 2015
  • Elizabeth Partridge has also been previously nominated, as a finalist in 2002

In other interesting points about the young people’s literature longlist:

  • Two middle grade works are on the list, Curtis’ The Journey of Little Charlie and Connor’s The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle—otherwise, the list is dominated by YA titles. Two titles make use of photographic and/or illustrations to examine political and personal histories—Partridge’s Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam and Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo.
  • Another illustrated title—The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by Anderson and Yelchin—uses fantasy and political satire to comment on conflict, discrimination, and the bias inherent in history as told by those in power. Two books on the list follow young women decades apart who are struggling with identity and their place in the world after tragedies: Stamper’s illustrated debut novel What the Night Sings and Mafi’s A Very Large Expanse of Sea. 
  • Bliss’ We’ll Fly Away uses letter-writing and third-person flashbacks to chronicle a lifelong friendship.
  • Authors appearing on this year’s longlist have previously been recognized, media messaging tells us, by the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, the Los Angeles Times Book Awards, the American Library Association, the Children’s Choice Book Awards, Cave Canem, the Boston Globe—Horn Book Awards, and the Tomie dePaola Awards, among and other programs.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the National Book Awards is here, and on awards programs in general is here. More from us on translation is here.

And our Summer Magazine is ready for your free download and is themed on politics and publishing.

It includes our extensive preview of Frankfurter Buchmesse. Download the PDF here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.