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The mission of the National Book Foundation is to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture.
Each year they award $10,000 and a bronze sculpture to the best books in five categories: Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature.
In a live-streamed ceremony hosted by Phoebe Robinson, author of You Can’t Touch My Hair And Other Things I Still Have to Explain, Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay, and the newly released Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes, the winners were announced on Wednesday, November 17, 2021.
The announcer was Dion Graham, audiobook narrator and actor.
Fiction Winner – Jason Mott, Hell of a Book
The finalists for the National Book Award for Fiction were:
Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land
Lauren Groff, Matrix
Laird Hunt, Zorrie
Robert Jones, Jr., The Prophets
An additional five books were long-listed:
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois
Jakob Guanzon, Abundance
Katie Kitamura, Intimacies
Elizabeth McCracken, The Souvenir Museum: Stories
Richard Powers, Bewilderment
The 2021 NBA Fiction judges were chaired by Luis Alberto Urrea and additionally included Alan Michael Parker, Emily Pullen, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, and Charles Yu.
Nonfiction Winner – Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake
Finalists for the 2021 National Book Awards in Nonfiction include:
Hanif Abdurraqib, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance
Lucas Bessire, Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains
Grace M. Cho, Tastes Like War: A Memoir
The longlist included:
Scott Ellsworth, The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice
Louis Menand, The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War
The chair for the nonfiction award was Nell Painter and the other judges were Eula Biss, Aaron John Curtis, Kate Tuttle, and Jerald Walker.
Poetry Winner – Martín Espada, Floaters
Desiree C. Bailey, What Noise Against the Cane
Douglas Kearney, Sho
Hoa Nguyen, A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure
Jackie Wang, The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void
The longlist included:
Threa Almontaser, The Wild Fox of Yemen
Baba Badji, Ghost Letters
CM Burroughs, Master Suffering
Andrés Cerpa, The Vault
Forrest Gander, Twice Alive
The chair for the poetry award was A. Van Jordan and other judges were Don Mee Choi, Natalie Diaz, Matthea Harvey, and Ilya Kaminsky.
Translated Literature Winner: Elisa Shua Dusapin, Winter in Sokcho
Translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins
The finalists consisted of:
Ge Fei, Peach Blossom Paradise
Translated from the Chinese by Canaan Morse
Nona Fernández, The Twilight Zone
Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World
Translated from the Spanish by Adrian Nathan West
Samar Yazbek, Planet of Clay
Translated from the Arabic by Leri Price
The longlist included:
Maryse Condé, Waiting for the Waters to Rise
Translated from the French by Richard Philcox
Bo-Young Kim, On the Origin of Species and Other Stories
Translated from the Korean by Joungmin Lee Comfort and Sora Kim-Russell
Elvira Navarro, Rabbit Island: Stories
Translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
Judith Schalansky, An Inventory of Losses
Translated from the German by Jackie Smith
Maria Stepanova, In Memory of Memory
Translated from the Russian by Sasha
The chair for the best translated literature was Stephen Snyder with judges Jessie Chaffee, Madhu H. Kaza, Achy Obejas, and Sergio de la Pava.
Young People’s Literature Winner: Malinda Lo, Last Night at the Telegraph Club
The finalists for the Young People’s Literature Award from the NBA were:
Shing Yin Khor, The Legend of Auntie Po
Kyle Lukoff, Too Bright to See
Amber McBride, Me (Moth)
Longlist entries included:
Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrations by Floyd Cooper, Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre
Safia Elhillo, Home Is Not a Country
Darcie Little Badger, A Snake Falls to Earth
Anna-Marie McLemore, The Mirror Season
Cathryn Mercier was the chair with additional judges Pablo Cartaya, Traci Chee, Leslie Connor, and Ibi Aanu Zoboi.
Additional Awards at the 2021 National Book Awards
The Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community was presented to Nancy Pearl by Ron Charles.
The Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters was presented to Karen Tei Yamashita by Viet Thanh Nguyen.