US National Book Foundation’s Spring Season: Cross-Country Venues

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At 19 events in 13 states, the National Book Foundation now is on the road, crisscrossing the country in the spring season of its NBF Presents programming.

In a National Book Foundation ‘2019 NBF Presents’ event in Roanoke, Virginia, the audience hears, from left, from Douglas Jackson, Justin Phillip Reed, and Ibram X. Kendi. Image: National Book Foundation

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

‘To Dig Into Conversations That Matter’
Having begun in late January with a program at the Charleston County Public Library in Lowcountry South Carolina, the National Book Foundation‘s outreach events programming on Tuesday (February 11) will be in Claremont, California, with a “Family Affairs” session at Scripps College.

The program is continuing with its three-year US$900,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and between January and May will stage close to 20 programs in 13 states. As New York-centric as the American publishing industry is—and as many authors and consumers as this effort brings together west of the Hudson—the program is another clear indication of how much the stability of long-term support can bring to this valuable foundation’s work.

The National Book Foundation is the organization, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, that produces the annual National Book Awards, and its road-running program of literature-related events in so many parts of the country is branded NBF Presents. As these things always go, the awards grab the lion’s share of the attention, and the foundation’s tireless work in creating, booking, organizing, and staging this huge array of programs in local communities isn’t as well recognized.

It might surprise many, for example, to learn that this year’s spring season alone of these NBF Presents events will feature a starting lineup of authors comprising:

  • Hanif Abdurraqib
  • Sarah M. Broom
  • Jericho Brown
  • Susan Choi
  • Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Akwaeke Emezi
  • Kali Fajardo-Anstine
  • Camonghne Felix
  • Garth Greenwell
  • Ilya Kaminsky
  • Laila Lalami,
  • Diana Khoi Nguyen
  • Kimberly King Parsons
  • Julia Phillips
  • Helen Phillips
  • Iliana Regan
  • Erika L. Sánchez
  • Sarah Smarsh
  • Carmen Giménez Smith
  • Natasha Trethewey
  • David Treuer

And the list may grow as more authors become available for bookings.

In the process of producing these events for readers and other consumers, the foundation creates partnerships, as well. In the new season, partnerships coming online for the first time include the Charleston County Public Library in South Carolina; the Oxford Conference of the Book and Coahoma Community College in Mississippi; and a mini-tour of Kansas and Missouri with the Kansas City Public Library, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, and the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

Lisa Lucas

In a prepared statement, the foundation’s executive director, Lisa Lucas, is quoted, saying, “NBF Presents provides the opportunity to dig into conversations that matter with audiences and readers around the country and shows how literature inspires questions, transforms ideas, and creates dialogue for a community.” (Our recent interview with Lucas is here).

Plans for the spring season this year includes two events celebrating the foundation’s 2019-2020 “Literature for Justice Reading List,” a program that explores the nation’s prisons and mass incarceration issues. Book involved in that regard include works of Asha Bandele, Susan Burton, Angela Y. Davis, Rachel Kushner, and Danielle Sered.

The lineup also is to feature some “Eat, Drink & Be Literary” series in partnership with BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music. That series is made up of dinner events with contemporary writers in conversation. More information on that is expected.

Upcoming Events in the National Book Foundation Series

February 11, Claremont, California, Scripps College “NBF Presents: Family Affairs”: The National Book Award winner (2019) Sarah M. Broom (The Yellow House) and former United States and Mississippi poet laureate and National Book Award longlisted author Natasha Trethewey (Monument) discuss documenting the stories about families of the American South. Moderated by Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, and presented in partnership with the Los Angeles Library Foundation and Scripps Presents.

February 12,, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Library Foundation “NBF Presents: Untold Stories”: 2019 National Book Award finalist Kali Fajardo-Anstine (Sabrina & Corina: Stories) joins poet and 2017 National Book Award finalist Erika L. Sánchez (I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter) to discuss their work and why the preservation, perpetuation, and presentation of the experience of Mexican-American women in literature matters. Moderated by Lucas and presented in partnership with the Los Angeles Library Foundation and Scripps Presents.

February 19, Philadelphia, Community College of Philadelphia “NBF Presents: A New Queer Canon”: Poet and political strategist Camonghne Felix (Build Yourself a Boat, 2019 poetry Longlist) and novelist Garth Greenwell (Cleanness; What Belongs to You, 2016 fiction longlist) discuss making space for queer stories full of sex, violence, and love, and the power of LGBTQ+ must-read lists. Moderated by William Johnson, deputy director of Lambda Literary, and presented in partnership with the Community College of Philadelphia.

February 27, Winter Park, Florida, Rollins College, “NBF Presents: Winter with the Writers”: The foundation returns to Rollins College for its annual Winter with the Writers literary festival, featuring a joint reading with Fajardo-Anstine’s debut short story collection Sabrina & Corina and poetry finalist Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic, followed by a Q&A session with the audience. Moderated by Carol Frost, festival director and professor of English at Rollins College. This program is supported by the Rollins Department of English.

February 28, Amherst, Massachusetts, Amherst College, “NBF Presents: LitFest 2020”: The foundation joins Amherst College’s fifth annual literary festival to celebrate the work of National Book Award-honored authors. The fiction winner from last year, Susan Choi (Trust Exercise), and finalist Laila Lalami (The Other Americans) are to speak to the power of fiction and point of view. Moderated by Judith Frank, author of All I Love and Know. This program is supported by Amherst College and the Croxton Lecture Fund.

March 12, Moorhead, Minnesota, Concordia College, “NBF Presents: The National Book Awards at Concordia”: The foundation returns to Concordia College for the 15th year of programming featuring award-honored authors including 2019 National Book Award winner for nonfiction Sarah M. Broom (The Yellow House) and nonfiction finalist David Treuer (The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee). Moderated by John Ydstie, NPR correspondent. This program is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in honor of Earl Lewis 1978.

March 15, Tucson, Tucson Festival of Books, “NBF Presents: A Morning with the National Book Awards”: The foundation joins the Tucson Festival of Books for a cross-genre conversation on contemporary female stories and recognition with three 2019 National Book Award finalists—fiction authors Fajardo-Anstine (Sabrina & Corina) and Julia Phillips (Disappearing Earth) and poet Carmen Giménez Smith (Be Recorder). Moderated by Natalie Green, public programs manager at the foundation.

March 22, Charlottesville, Virginia, Virginia Festival of the Book, “NBF Presents: An Afternoon with the National Book Awards”: To close the 2020 Virginia Festival of the Book, the foundation recognizes its 2019 National Book Award honorees, including Kaminsky (Deaf Republic), to highlight some of the best literature in America and discuss why books matter.

April 2, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Kirkwood Community College, 2019 National Book Award fiction longlisted author Helen Phillips (The Need) appears at Kirkwood.

April 2, Clarkdale, Mississippi, Coahoma Community College, “NBF Presents: What’s in a Memoir?”: 2019 National Book Award nonfiction longlisted writers Hanif Abdurraqib (Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest) and Iliana Regan (Burn the Place) discuss food, music, and identity, and how memoir helps shape our understanding of the arts, ourselves, and one another. Presented in partnership with Coahoma Community College and the Coahoma County Higher Education Center.

April 3, Oxford, Mississippi, Oxford Conference of the Book, “NBF Presents: The Power of the Personal”: Abdurraqib and Regan continue their conversation onstage at the 27th Oxford Conference. The writers discuss the heart of food, music, and place—from the makings of an iconic rap group to a Michelin-starred restaurant—and the power of personal storytelling.

April 4, Iowa City, Mission Creek Festival, “NBF Presents: Helen Phillips” in Mission Creek Festival’s public keynote in the Old Capital Museum.

April 6, Huntsville, Texas, Sam Houston State University, “NBF Presents: Sam Houston State’s National Book Awards Festival”: The foundation and university present the 2020 National Book Awards Festival featuring a cross-genre conversation on storytelling, recognition, and resonating. Poet Diana Khoi Nguyen (Ghost Of) speaks, as do fiction author Kimberly King Parsons (Black Light: Stories), and children’s author Christopher Paul Curtis (The Journey of Little Charlie). Moderated by Bryan Washington, a “5 Under 35” program honoree and author of Lot: Stories. This program is supported by SHSU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the MFA Program in Creative Writing.

April 9, Warrensburg, Missouri, University of Central Missouri: the foundation visits the University of Central Missouri with Great Plains-native and 2018 National Book Award nonfiction finalist Sarah Smarsh (Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth). More details to be announced.

Additional dates with details as yet unannounced include:

  • April 7, Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City Public Library: the foundation visits with awards-honored authors
  • April 8, Topeka, Kansas, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, the foundation visits with awards-honored authors
  • May 2, Berkeley, California, Bay Area Book Festival, “NBF Presents: An Afternoon with the National Book Awards”
  • May 9, Minneapolis, Wordplay Festival, “NBF Presents: An Afternoon with the National Book Awards”

More from Publishing Perspectives on the National Book Foundation and the awards is here, and on awards programs in general is 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 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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