US National Book Awards Program: Spring Season

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The National Book Foundation’s new digital outreach series features a 12-event presentation of winners, shortlistees, and finalists, including international literature and translation.

In the main hall at Union Station in Washington, DC, during the holidays. Image – iStockphoto: Xackery Irving

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

Smith: ‘Fueling Important Community Conversations’
The National Book Foundation—which produces the annual National Book Awards in November—is a year-round operation with educational outreach programming made possible by a multi-year US$900,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

All announced programming for this season running through June in the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic will be held, of course, exclusively online, at no cost to viewers. Loyalty Bookstores in Washington, DC, is to again be the program’s bookseller.

The program includes material relevant to the still-new internationalist stance created by the addition of its translated literature award category two years ago. A May 20 event, in particular, focuses on international literature, in cooperation with Shuchi Saraswat, writer, editor, and founder of the Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith.

The concept here is not only to provide entertainment and interesting content relative to literature for citizens but also to support the authors whose work has figured into the foundation’s prize programming. These are longlisted, shortlisted, and winning writers from the program.

Authors speaking in these events this year are to include:

  • Rumaan Alam
  • Tommye Blount
  • Jericho Brown
  • Kacen Callender
  • Toi Derricotte
  • Natalie Diaz
  • Camonghne Felix
  • Terrance Hayes
  • Sophie Hughes
  • Victoria Jamieson
  • Laila Lalami
  • Megha Majumdar
  • Fernanda Melchor
  • Omar Mohamed
  • Tamara Payne
  • Deesha Philyaw
  • Douglas Stuart
  • Nafissa Thompson-Spires
  • David Treuer
  • Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
  • Isabel Wilkerson
  • Charles Yu

Thematically, the intent, according to the organization’s media messaging, is to “consider topics both domestic and international—from the history of Blackness in America to the significance of translated literature—and connect authors and translators writing across fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature with readers around the world.”

And in a prepared statement, Jordan Smith—who is serving as interim executive director following Lisa Lucas’ departure for Knopf—is quoted, noting that this is the program’s second digitally presented season. “Our hope is that the words of these authors resonate with viewers and fuel important community conversations.”

The National Book Foundation 2021 Spring Season

At Penn Station’s Moynihan Hall in New York City, January 14. Image – iStockphoto: Massimo Giachetti

January 21, 6 p.m. ET: NBF YouTube channel

NBF Presents: Happy Debut Year: Tommye Blount (Fantasia for the Man in Blue), Megha Majumdar (A Burning), and Douglas Stuart (Shuggie Bain). Moderated by MJ Franklin, an editor at the New York Times Book Review.  

February 4, 6 p.m. ET: NBF YouTube channel

NBF Presents: Black History Reexamined: Tamara Payne (The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X) and Isabel Wilkerson (Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent).

February 16, 8 p.m. ET: NBF YouTube channel

NBF Presents: Secrets of the South: Jericho Brown (The Tradition), Tayari Jones (An American Marriage), and Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies). Moderated by Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir. 

February 26, 7 p.m. ET to February 27, 11 a.m. ET: Amherst College

NBF Presents: LitFest 2021: The National Book Foundation returns to Amherst College’s annual LitFest for a sixth year.

  • On February 26, Megha Majumdar (A Burning) and Charles Yu (Interior Chinatown) in conversation moderated by visiting writer Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint.
  • On February 27, Tommye Blount (Fantasia for the Man in Blue) and Natalie Diaz (Postcolonial Love Poem) John Hennessy, poetry editor of The Common.

March 6, 11 a.m. MT: Tucson Festival of Books

NBF Presents: Page, Stage, and Screen: Lydia Millet (A Children’s Bible), Jenn Shapland (My Autobiography of Carson McCullers), and Charles Yu (Interior Chinatown).

March 11, 7:30 p.m. CT: Concordia College

NBF Presents: The National Book Awards at Concordia College: The National Book Foundation’s 16th year of partnership with Concordia College. Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (When Stars Are Scattered) and David Treuer (The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to Present), moderated by John Ydstie, a former NPR correspondent. 

March 13, 7 p.m. ET: Virginia Festival of the Book

NBF Presents: The Work of Fiction:  Rumaan Alam (Leave the World Behind), Megha Majumdar (A Burning, Longlist), and Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies). 

March 25, 6 p.m. ET: NBF YouTube channel

NBF Presents: Borders of Belonging: Laila Lalami (The Other Americans), Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Heads of the Colored People), and Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (The Undocumented Americans), moderated by Concepción de León, a New York Times reporter. 

April 22, 6 p.m. ET: NBF YouTube channel

NBF Presents: Poetry in Protest: Toi Derricotte (“I”: New and Selected Poems), Camonghne Felix (Build Yourself a Boat), and Terrance Hayes (LightheadHow to Be Drawn; American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin), moderated by Kyle Dacuyan, executive director of The Poetry Project. 

Thursday, May 20, 5:00 p.m. ET: NBF YouTube channel

NBF Presents: The Art of Translation: Hurricane Season, translated from Spanish, found a global audience and recognition. Fernanda Melchor and Sophie Hughes are moderated by Shuchi Saraswat, writer, editor, and founder of the Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith. 

June 15, 6 p.m. ET: NBF YouTube channel

NBF Presents: Revolutionary Joy: Kacen Callender (King and the Dragonflies).

The Coronavirus in the United States

At this writing, the 12:22 p.m. ET (1722 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 23,964,891 cases in the American population of 328 million, with 397,808 fatalities.

These numbers, of course, place the States far and away ahead of all nearest national figures. In caseload, the US market has more than twice the next largest number, India’s 10.1 million. And in deaths, the closest country’s reports to the States’ are Brazil’s 209,847.

As the nation approaches the inauguration on Wednesday (January 20) of Joe Biden as president, the outgoing Donald Trump administration will have presided over the deaths of close to 400,000 Americans to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Post today (January 18) carrying a report by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Aaron Gregg on five anti-vaccine organizations having received more than US$850,000 in loans “from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, raising questions about why the government is giving money to groups actively opposing its agenda and seeking to undermine public health during a critical period.”

The Biden administration is promising a furious reversal of the scandals, neglect, confusion, and disinformation in the Trump White House’s response to the contagion, pledging to vaccinate at least 100 million citizens in the new regime’s first 100 days, as reported by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Katie Thomas at The New York Times.

At the New York Public Library, January 7. Image – iStockphoto: Massimo Giachetti


More from Publishing Perspectives on the National Book Foundation and the awards is here, and on awards programs in general is here

And more on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing 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 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. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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