Book award winners announced this week

Booker Prize 2020

Thursday night in London, England, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart won the 2020 Booker Prize, a highly coveted annual award given to the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

One of my favorite books of 2020, Shuggie Bain is a seering, poignant story set in 1980s Glasgow, Scotland. Stuart flawlessly draws us into the world of Hugh “Shuggie” Bain as he devotedly supports his alcoholic mother and navigates his own confusing world where it seems he’s “different”. The story is sad but also endearing, funny, and heartwarming.

Laying bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride, Shuggie Bain is a blistering and heartbreaking debut, and an exploration of the unsinkable love that only children can have for their damaged parents.

From the Man Booker description

Shuggie Bain also was a contender for the National Book Award in Fiction, but that award went to Interior Chinatown.

National Book Awards 2020

On Wednesday night in Washington D.C., New York and cities around the world, the National Book Foundation announced its winners in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature. The event streamed live, hosted by author Jason Reynolds. What a phenomenal experience to be in the virtual audience, watching the awards being announced and the authors’ shock and thrill and grateful speeches in real-time, something never been done before at what’s normally a prestigious, ticketed ceremony of expensive tables populated by authors, literary agents, publishers, and other industry officials. Below are this year’s winners.

Written in the format of a screenplay, Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu, winner of the fiction award, focuses on an Asian actor who aspires to be cast in more promising roles than Generic Asian Man. It’s a Hollywood satire and sendup of Chinese stereotypes that a Washington Post review says is “one of the funniest books of the year.”

Tamara Payne gave a moving acceptance speech for The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X that her late father Les Payne began 30 years ago, saying she was honored to be his co-pilot on this major work to which he devoted his life. Winner of the Nonfiction Award, in a New York Times review, The Dead Are Arising “…reconstructs the conditions and key moments of Malcolm’s life, thanks to hundreds of original interviews with his family, friends, colleagues, and adversaries. Nobody has written a more poetic account.”

Korean poet Don Mee Choi spoke meaningfully about the importance of small presses publishing poetry today, naming the many that have published her own work, including Wave Press that published DMZ Colony, winner of the Poetry Award. According to the book’s description, “it explores Edward Said’s notion of ‘the intertwined and overlapping histories’ in regards to South Korea and the United States through innovative deployments of voice, story, and poetics.”

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, translated by Morgan Giles, tells the story of a homeless ghost who haunts one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations. Winner of the Translated Literature Award, the novel has received raves since it was first published. From the novel’s description: “Through Kazu’s eyes, we see daily life in Tokyo buzz around him and learn the intimate details of his personal story, how loss and society’s inequalities and constrictions spiraled towards this ghostly fate, with moments of beauty and grace just out of reach.”

Publisher’s Weekly says Kacen Callender’s King and the Dragonflies, a middle-grade book and winner of the Young People’s Award, is “a powerful tale of grief, intersectional identity, and love.” From the book’s description: “In a small but turbulent Louisiana town, one boy’s grief takes him beyond the bayous of his backyard, to learn that there is no right way to be yourself.”

The National Book Foundation’s stated mission is to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture. While this year’s National Book Awards ceremony was digitally open to all for free, the National Book Foundation asked for donations, as the event is the nonprofit organization’s annual fundraiser. If you’re looking for ways to help save books during this difficult year, their donation drive continues through the end of 2020.

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