The 2017 National Book Award winners were announced tonight in New York City. The big prize for Fiction went to Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. In her review for our site, Nur Nasreen Ibrahim wrote, “All of Ward’s characters in Sing, Unburied, Sing live with trauma.” She continues:
The dead in Sing, Unburied, Sing are needy because they have no choice. Trauma demands attention, yet that attention brings chaos into the characters’ lives. The act of writing and reading such stories also demands that oppressor and oppressed address their positions in an unjust society. Literature and history occupy the same role, as record-keepers of injustice, and of experiences.
In her remarks beginning the awards ceremony, host Cynthia Nixon observed that 15 of the 20 finalists this year were women – the most ever – and when it was all was said and done, that 75% ratio held for the winners as well. For the record, male authors swept last year’s awards.
The award in the Young People’s Literature category went to Robin Benway for Far from the Tree. The Nonfiction award went to Masha Gessen for The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. (Bonus: Our interview with Gessen from last February.) The Poetry award was won by Frank Bidart for Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016, which our own Nick Ripatrazone previewed in his monthly poetry column for our site:
A massive book that covers 50 years of words, Bidart’s collected contains enough routes and themes to produce years of reading. His style—capitalized words, italics, shifting speakers, personae, autobiography—result in a modern mythmaker who channels the old masters. A poet finely attuned to the contours of sensuality, he can simultaneously be spare and weighty.