On Wednesday the winners of the 2016 National Book Awards were announced.
The National Book Award was established in 1936 to celebrate the achievements of American novelists, poets, playwrights, historians and biographers. Briefly cancelled during World War II, it was revived in 1950 by three private agencies. In 1988, the National Book Foundation, a non-profit organization, was established to award the honor and promote literacy and education.
2016’s National Book Award for Fiction went to “The Underground Railroad,” a novel by Colson Whitehead. Whitehead was born in 1969 and attended Harvard before taking a position at The Village Voice, Greenwich Village’s alternative newspaper.
He has published six novels and one essay collection. “The Underground Railroad” follows two slaves, Cora and Caesar, as they use the Underground Railroad in an attempt to escape their plantations and find freedom.
“The Performance of Becoming Human,” a collection by Daniel Borzutsky, won the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry. Borzutsky was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has published three poetry collections and a book of short stories. According to the Brooklyn Arts Press, the publisher of “The Performance of Becoming Human,”
Borzutsky’s collection “draws hemispheric connections between the U.S. and Latin America, specifically touching upon issues relating to border and immigration policies, economic disparity, political violence and the disturbing rhetoric of capitalism and bureaucracies.”
Ibram X. Kendi’s controversial exploration of racism in the United States, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” won the 2016 National Book Award for Non-Fiction.
Kendi, who grew up in New York City, is assistant professor of African American History at the University of Florida. “Stamped from the Beginning” challenges the view that Americans live in a post-racial society, arguing that racism, specifically racism against African-Americans, continues to thrive in our cultural and social institutions.
Young People’s Literature
“March: Book Three,” a graphic novel by Andrew Ayadin and Rep. John Lewis, was awarded the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. “March: Book Three” is the concluding volume of the popular March trilogy, which explores the Civil Rights Movement from the perspective of a young Lewis.
Of March, Lewis has said, “This book is for all of America. It is for all people, but especially young people, to understand the essence of the civil rights movement.”