At a virtual award ceremony in New York on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, the following winners of the National Book Award were announced.
The Winner in Fiction
by Charles Yu
Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: He’s merely Generic Asian man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but he is always relegated to a prop. Yet every day he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy—the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. At least that’s what he has been told, time and time again. Except by one person, his mother. Who says to him: Be more.
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
The Winner in Non-fiction
The Dead are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X
by Les Payne and Tamara Payne
In tracing Malcolm X’s life from his Nebraska birth in 1925 to his Harlem assassination in 1965, Payne provides searing vignettes culled from Malcolm’s Depression-era youth, describing the influence of his Garveyite parents: his father, Earl, a circuit-riding preacher who was run over by a streetcar in Lansing, Michigan, in 1929, and his mother, Louise, who continued to instill black pride in her children after Earl’s death. Filling each chapter with resonant drama, Payne follows Malcolm’s exploits as a petty criminal in Boston and Harlem in the 1930s and early 1940s to his religious awakening and conversion to the Nation of Islam in a Massachusetts penitentiary.
Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt
My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
How to Make a Slave and Other Essays by Jerald Walker
The Winner in Poetry
A Treatise on Stars by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
Fantasia for the Man in Blue by Tommye Blount
Borderland Apocrypha by Anthony Cody
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diz
The Winner in Translated Literature
High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann; translated from the German by Anne Posten
The Family Clause by Jonas Hassen Khemiri; translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies
The Bitch by Pilar Quintana; translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman
Minor Detail by Adania Shibli; translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette
The Winner in Young People’s Literature
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
The Way Back by Gavriel Savit
For more information on the finalists, the foundation, and the awards, click here. To see the full list and what NPR says about them, click here. To see the October Tidelines post announcing the shortlist, click here.