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2022 National Book Awards: Tess Gunty, Imani Perry amongst winners

Tess Gunty and Imani Perry have been the massive winners on the 73rd National Book Awards, taking house honors in fiction and nonfiction, respectively, as the distinguished literary prizes have been introduced at a gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York for the primary time since 2019, earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on reside occasions.

But the nice champion of Wednesday’s ceremony — topic of speeches by lifetime achievement winners, Art Spiegelman and Tracie D. Hall, and host Padma Lakshmi — was the liberty of speech and expression in a time of ebook bans and violence towards writers.

Gunty received for her debut novel, “The Rabbit Hutch,” a kaleidoscopic epic set in a failed Indiana industrial city; Perry was awarded for “South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon Line to Understand the Soul of Our Nation.” Among the opposite winners was Sabaa Tahir, for younger individuals’s literature; Argentinian writer Samanta Schweblin for translated literature; and John Keene for poetry.

Lakshmi, the “Taste the Nation” host and bestselling writer, set the tone for this yr’s ceremony by addressing a surge at school library bans throughout the nation. Citing the books “And Tango Makes Three” and Spiegelman’s “Maus,” Lakshmi referred to as censorship an assault on “our children’s 1st Amendment rights. The protection of free speech and equitable access to information and diverse ideas in the school library are fundamental to education.”

Hall, winner of the National Book Foundation’s 2022 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, is the chief director of the American Library Assn., which in September launched a report on in depth book-banning all through the U.S. After accepting the respect from presenter Ibram X. Kendi, Hall addressed “the fight for the right to read.”

After giving a “shoutout to Watts,” the place she was raised, Hall devoted the prize to her family members, fellow librarians and library workers who make sure that readers “have a chance to see themselves represented” in literature.

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“You want everyone to have that same opportunity and you were willing to fight for it,” she added. “It is a universal truth that one of the real tests of liberty is the right to read.”

Hall concluded by reminding the viewers that “free people read freely.”

Spiegelman, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” was among the many books banned this yr, accepted the inspiration’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from “Sandman” writer Neil Gaiman. In a speech punctuated with tongue-in-cheek asides, Spiegelman revisited the rise of his comedian, a Holocaust account by which Jews are mice and Nazis are cats, and the best way its censure is a component of a bigger motion to dismiss the experiences of marginalized communities.

“Most of today’s attacked books — many of them graphic novels — deal with queer identities and America’s race issues,” he mentioned. “‘Maus’ deals in granular detail what my parents experienced as Jews in Nazi Europe, but I think it became a universal symbol for all murderous othering.”

Though Spiegelman recalled being overshadowed for years by the one ebook that made his popularity, he had come round to embracing his 1991 traditional — particularly now, “while fascist storm clouds gather together to gather yet again, all over our frying planet. So I’m even grateful that ‘Maus’ may now have an afterlife as a cautionary tale, that it might make readers insist never again in the future — even if the past for other minorities has often been a matter of never again and again. And again.”

Much because it served as a platform for veterans of literary tradition wars, Wednesday’s ceremony, which was additionally streamed reside on YouTube, centered in its prizes on recent voices in literature.

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Accepting a prize for her young-adult novel “All My Rage,” San Francisco Bay Area writer Tahir famous that she is the primary Muslim and Pakistani American lady to take house the award within the ceremony’s decades-long historical past. In a tearful speech that appeared to allude to protests in Iran, she mentioned her fellow “Muslim sisters … are fighting for their lives, their autonomy, their bodies and their right to live and tell their own stories without fear. Sisters, may you rise and may you be victorious against the oppressors.”

Schweblin and translator Megan McDowell received for “Seven Empty Houses,” a short-story assortment. In a preview of the ebook, The Times wrote that Schweblin helps “us reconsider what stories can be while always making them feel tense, uncomfortable, exhilarating.”

Poetry winner Keene, honored for “Punks: New & Selected Poems,” devoted his award to his ancestors and generations of Black LGBTQ writers — particularly those that died of HIV/AIDS within the Nineteen Eighties. He additionally voiced help for librarians, fellow writers talking towards “political censure and oppression” and social activists.

In a lyrical speech accepting her nonfiction prize, Perry paid tribute to her roots all throughout the nation, together with in Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi — the area coated in her memoir-inflected award-winning historical past. The writer promised to stay truthful and “bear witness to the best of my ability.” After itemizing all these for whom she writes — “for the sinned against and the sanctifying” — Perry referred to as for unity in tough occasions:

“We may write in solitude, but we labor in solidarity. Community is never easy, but absolutely necessary. Let us meet the challenges of a broken world together, making intercessions with love unbound and heart without end.”

Similarly, “The Rabbit Hutch” writer Gunty, who acquired the evening’s last award, closed out the ceremony on a be aware of brightness.

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“I truly believe that attention is the most sacred resource that we have to spend on this planet,” she mentioned. “And books are perhaps one of the last places where we spend this resource freely and where it means most.”

She added: “I think kindness wins, I think that’s the point of this evening. Love wins.”

Here is the listing of the 2022 National Book Award winners and finalists:


  • Tess Gunty, “The Rabbit Hutch”
  • Gayl Jones, “The Birdcatcher”
  • Jamil Jan Kochai, “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories”
  • Sarah Thankam Mathews, “All This Could Be Different”
  • Alejandro Varela, “The Town of Babylon”


  • Meghan O’Rourke, “The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness”
  • Imani Perry, “South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation”
  • David Quammen, “Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus”
  • Ingrid Rojas Contreras, “The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir”
  • Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, “His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice”


  • Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, “Look at This Blue”
  • John Keene, “Punks: New & Selected Poems”
  • Sharon Olds, “Balladz”
  • Roger Reeves, “Best Barbarian”
  • Jenny Xie, “The Rupture Tense”

Translated literature

  • Jon Fosse, “A New Name: Septology VI-VII.” Translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls
  • Scholastique Mukasonga, “Kibogo.” Translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti
  • Mónica Ojeda, “Jawbone.” Translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker
  • Samanta Schweblin, “Seven Empty Houses.” Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
  • Yoko Tawada, “Scattered All Over the Earth.” Translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani

Young individuals’s literature

  • Kelly Barnhill, “The Ogress and the Orphans”
  • Sonora Reyes, The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School”
  • Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes and Dawud Anyabwile, “Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice”
  • Sabaa Tahir, “All My Rage”
  • Lisa Yee, “Maizy Chen’s Last Chance”


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