The National Book Awards on Wednesday awarded its fiction prize to author Jason Mott, whose novel Book of Hell chronicled a black author’s book tour mixed with a young black boy in the southern countryside to highlight the 2021 winners list.
The honorary award, held externally for the second year in a row, is one of the most prestigious awards in publishing. Past winners include William Faulkner, WH Auden and Ralph Ellison, and the victory in this age of adaptation promises the author instantly.
Mott said his work was selected a decade ago from the “slush pile,” a publishing industry designation for books that are unsolicited. The poet and author had three previous novels.
“I want to dedicate this award to all the other crazy kids, to all the outsiders, the weirdos, the bullies,” Mott said in his thank you speech. “They were so strange that they had no choice but to be misunderstood by the world and by those around them. Those who, despite this, refuse to grow out of their imagination, refuse to give up their dreams and refuse to deny, diminish their identity or their truth or their love, unlike so many others. “
Historian Tiya Miles won the non-fiction award for Everything she wore: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake. The book tells the story of a family through the journey of a cotton sack through the generations.
The poetry prize went to Martín Espada Floats, dedicated to migrants who drowned in the Rio Grande.
The prize for translated literature went to Winter in Sokcho a debut novel by Elisa Shua Dusapin and translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins. The book takes place at a South Korean resort.
Young literary honors went to Last night in the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, the story of a queer 17-year-old in San Francisco’s Chinatown during Red Scare.