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Memorial Hall Library

National Book Awards 2020

On Wednesday, November 18, 2020 the National Books Award Foundation announced the winners and finalists of the National Book Awards and the slate is incredible! This year's winners include works about a character actor, Malcolm X, the Korean War, a ghost in Tokyo, and a young queer Black boy. 

Take a look at the winners and finalists below. Visit the National Book Award Foundation's website to see more great literature on this year's long list.

Interior Chinatown
Interior Chinatown
by Charles Yu

FICTION WINNER: A stereotyped character actor stumbles into the spotlight before uncovering surprising links between his family and the secret history of Chinatown. By the award-winning author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.
Leave the world behind : a novel
Leave the world behind : a novel
by Rumaan Alam

Sheltering in a New York beach house with a couple that has taken refuge during a massive blackout, a family struggles for information about the power failure while wondering if the cut-off property is actually safe. 
A children's bible : a novel
A children's bible : a novel
by Lydia Millet

Contemptuous of the equally neglectful and suffocating parents who would pass the summer in a stupor of drugs and sex, one dozen eerily mature children run away as a dangerous storm descends and subjects them to apocalyptic chaos.
The secret lives of church ladies
The secret lives of church ladies
by Deesha Philyaw

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church's double standards and their own needs and passions.
Shuggie Bain : a novel
Shuggie Bain : a novel
by Douglas Stuart

A young boy growing up in a rundown 1980s Glasgow public housing facility pursues some semblance of a normal life as his older siblings move on and his mother increasingly succumbs to alcoholism. 
The dead are arising : the life of Malcolm X
The dead are arising : the life of Malcolm X
by Les Payne

NONFICTION WINNER: A revisionary portrait of the iconic civil rights leader draws on hundreds of hours of interviews with surviving family members, intelligence officers and political leaders to offer new insights into Malcolm X’s Depression-era youth, religious conversion and 1965 assassination.
Unworthy republic : the dispossession of Native Americans and the road to Indian territory
Unworthy republic : the dispossession of Native Americans and the road to Indian territory
by Claudio Saunt

A history of the 1830s forced migration of indigenous populations to territories west of the Mississippi describes the government-driven fraud, intimidation and murder that were used to confiscate Native American homelands and property.
My autobiography of Carson McCullers
My autobiography of Carson McCullers
by Jenn Shapland

A Pushcart Prize-winning writer draws on an intimate correspondence between McCullers and a woman named Annemarie to share previously unknown insights into the 20th-century novelist’s private life, her approaches to queer fiction and the influence of her time at Yaddo. 
The undocumented Americans
The undocumented Americans
by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

An Ivy League-educated DACA beneficiary reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans, from the volunteers recruited for the 9/11 Ground Zero cleanup to the homeopathy botanicas of Miami that provide limited health care to non-citizens.
How to Make a Slave and Other Essays
How to Make a Slave and Other Essays
by Jerald Walker

Personal essays exploring identity, family, and community through the prism of race and black culture. Confronts the medical profession's racial biases, shopping while black at Whole Foods, the legacy of Michael Jackson, raising black boys, haircuts that scare white people, racial profiling, and growing up in Southside Chicago. 
DMZ colony
DMZ colony
by Don Mee Choi

POETRY WINNER: A new book by Don Mee Choi that includes poems, prose, and images.
A treatise on stars
A treatise on stars
by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge's A Treatise on Stars extends the intensely phenomenological poetics of 'The Star Field' in Empathy, which appeared over thirty years ago. The book is structured as a continuous enfolding of poems, each made up of numbered serial parts, their presiding poetic consciousness moving from the desert arroyo of New Mexico to the white-tailed deer of Maine and between conversations with daughter, husband, friends, pets (corn snake and poodle), and a woman, or star-visitor, beneath a tree who calls 'any spirit in matter ... star-walking.' These are poems of deep listening and patient waiting, open to the channeling of daily experience, to gestalt and angel, dolphins and extraterrestrials. This is not new age poetry but poetry for a new age, rigorous of thought and grounded in the physical world where 'days fill with splendor, and earth offers its pristine beauty to an expanding present.
Fantasia for the man in blue
Fantasia for the man in blue
by Tommye Blount

An examination of a brutal America through the voices of its most vulnerable sons. In his debut collection, Fantasia for the Man in Blue, Tommye Blount orchestrates a chorus of distinct, unforgettable voices that speak to the experience of the black, queer body as a site of desire and violence. A black man's late-night encounter with a police officer - the titular "man in blue" - becomes an extended meditation on a dangerous, erotic fantasy. The late Luther Vandross, resurrected here in a suite of poems, addresses the contradiction between his public persona and a life spent largely in the closet: "It's a calling, this hunger / to sing for a love I'm too ashamed to want for myself." In "Aaron McKinney Cleans His Magnum," the convicted killer imagines the barrel of the gun he used to bludgeon Matthew Shepherd as an "infant's small mouth" as well as the "sad calculator" that was "built to subtract from and divide a town." In these and other poems, Blount viscerally captures the experience of the "other" and locates us squarely within these personae.
Borderland apocrypha
Borderland apocrypha
by Anthony Cody

Borderland Apocrypha is centered around the collective histories of Mexican lynchings following the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, and the subsequent erasures, traumas, and state-sanctioned violence committed towards communities of color in the present day. Cody's debut collection responds to the destabilized, hostile landscapes and silenced histories via an experimental poetic that invents and shapeshifts in both form and space across the margin, the page, and the book's axis in a resistance, a reclamation and a re-occupation of what has been omitted. Part auto-historia, part docu-poetic, part visual monument, part myth-making, Borderland Apocrypha exhumes the past in order to work toward survival, reckoning, and future- building.
Postcolonial Love Poem
Postcolonial Love Poem
by Natalie Diaz

Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz's brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages--bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers--be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness.
Tokyo Ueno Station
Tokyo Ueno Station
by Miri Yū

TRANSLATED LITERATURE WINNER: Haunting the park near Tokyo’s Uneo Station, the ghost of a man whose life eerily paralleled the Emperor’s reflects on the milestones that impacted his existence, from his homelessness and the 2011 tsunami to the 1964 and 2020 Olympics.
High as the waters rise : a novel
High as the waters rise : a novel
by Anja Kampmann

After losing his off-shore oil drilling friend and bunkmate to the sea, Waclaw takes a journey across Europe, encountering many other lost souls along the way before reaching, the final destination of his childhood Germany.
The family clause
The family clause
by Jonas Hassen Khemiri

Returning home from abroad to visit the adult children he considers failures, a narcissistic patriarch faces the consequences of his harsh treatment of his children throughout 10 intense days of painful memories and impossible choices. 
The Bitch
The Bitch
by Pilar Quintana

In Colombia's brutal jungle, childless Damaris develops an intense and ultimately doomed relationship with an orphaned puppy. Colombia's Pacific coast, where everyday life entails warding off the brutal forces of nature. In this constant struggle, nothing is taken for granted. Damaris lives with her fisherman husband in a shack on a bluff overlooking the sea. Childless and at that age 'when women dry up', as her uncle puts it, she is eager to adopt an orphaned puppy. But this act may bring more than just affection into her home. The Bitch is written in a prose as terse as the villagers, with storms--both meteorological and emotional--lurking around each corner. Beauty and dread live side by side in this poignant exploration of the many meanings of motherhood and love.
Minor detail
Minor detail
by °Adanīyah Shiblī

Minor Detail begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba-the catastrophe that led to the displacement and exile of some 700,000 people-and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, and among their victims they capture a Palestinian teenager and they rape her, kill her, and bury her in the sand. Many years later, in the near-present day, a young woman in Ramallah tries to uncover some of the details surrounding this particular rape and murder, and becomes fascinated to the point of obsession, not only because of the nature of the crime, but because it was committed exactly twenty-five years to the day before she was born. Adania Shibli masterfully overlays these two translucent narratives of exactly the same length to evoke a present forever haunted by the past.
King and the dragonflies
King and the dragonflies
by Kacen Callender

YOUNG PEOPLE'S LITERATURE WINNER: A 12-year-old boy spends days in the mystical Louisiana bayou to come to terms with a sibling’s sudden death, his grief-stricken family and the disappearance of his former best friend amid whispers about the latter’s sexual orientation. By the award-winning author of Hurricane Child
We are not free
We are not free
by Traci Chee

Growing up together in the community of Japantown, San Francisco, four second-generation Japanese American teens find their bond tested by widespread discrimination and the mass incarcerations of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II. 
Every Body Looking
Every Body Looking
by Candice Iloh

A debut novel in verse follows the story of a mixed-heritage poet whose coming of age within the African diaspora is shaped by abuse at the hands of a cousin, her mother’s descent into addiction and her father’s efforts to create a Nigerian-inspired home in America. 
When stars are scattered
When stars are scattered
by Victoria Jamieson, Omar Mohamed

A Somali refugee who spent his childhood at the Dadaab camp and the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl present the graphic-novel story of a young refugee who struggles with leaving behind his nonverbal brother when he has an opportunity to help his family by going to school. 
The Way Back
The Way Back
by Gavriel Savit

Sent by the Angel of Death into the Jewish Far Country’s land of the transient dead, two teens make pacts with ancient demons and declare war on Death himself to reclaim their lives, in a tale based on folk tradition by the author of Anna and the Swallow Man
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