Hallie Rubenhold Wins 2019 Baillie Gifford Prize

The 2019 Baillie Gifford Prize (previously the Samuel Johnson Prize), which celebrates the best in nonfiction, was awarded to The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold.

Selected from a shortlist of six titles, The Five tells the story of Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine, and Mary Jane, five women who were murdered, in separate instances, in 1888. Their murderer, the man who would be known as Jack the Ripper, became famous; the women themselves faded into obscurity. Rubenhold uses archival material to refocus the story, centering both the women who lost their lives and the larger context of poverty, misogyny, and homelessness in which they lived.

The judges noted The Five’s combination of passion and historical accuracy, as well as its inventive and timely exploration of a well-documented subject. Said judge Frances Wilson, “It’s so urgent and it’s so eloquent and it’s so angry and beautifully put together.” Fellow judge Dr Xand van Tulleken described the book as “absolutely captivating and gripping,” and urged readers to see “how relevant it is to life in the U.K. at the moment.”

National Book Awards Names 2019 Finalists

The National Book Foundation announced the National Book Award finalists today. Each category—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young people’s literature, and translated literature—has been narrowed down from the longlist 10 to the shortlist five. While many of the finalists have made the NBA shortlist before, none of them have won of a National Book Award in these categories.

Here’s a list of the finalists in all five categories, with bonus links where available:

Fiction:

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi (Read our 2019 interview with Choi)
Sabrina & Corinas by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (Featured in our Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview)
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (Read a profile of James)
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (Read Lalami’s 2018 Year in Reading entry)
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Featured in our Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview)

Nonfiction:

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom (Featured in our Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)
Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom (Featured in our Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview)
What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forché
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
Solitary by Albert Woodfox with Leslie George


Poetry:

The Tradition by Jericho Brown (Read an excerpt from Brown’s collection)
“I”: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte (Read our 2019 interview with Derricotte)
Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky (Featured in March’s Must-Read Poetry roundup)
Be Recorder by Carmen Giménez Smith (Read an excerpt from Smith’s collection)
Sight Lines by Arthur Sze

Translated Literature

Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa, translated by Leri Price
Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet (Read our review)
The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Jordan Stump
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder (Featured in our Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)
Crossing by Pajtim Statovci, translated by David Hackston

Young People’s Literature:

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (Featured in our Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby
1919: The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler

The awards will be revealed in New York City on November 20.

National Book Foundation Names 5 Under 35 Authors for 2019

The National Book Foundation named its 5 Under 35 honorees for 2019. The program recognizes five debut fiction writers under the age of 35 whose work “promises to leave a lasting impression on the literary landscape.” Each 5 Under 35 author is selected by a previous National Book Award-winner or 5 Under 35 author.

Here’s a list of the honorees, with bonus links where available:

So Many Olympic Exertions by Anelise Chen (Read our interview with Chen.)

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

Such Good Work by Johannes Lichtman (A writer for the site back in the day)

Lot by Bryan Washington (Read our interview with Washington; Here’s his Year in Reading post)

Happy Like This by Ashley Wurzbacher

The Art of the Adaptation

You might have seen the new Little Women trailer by now. In a series of quick cuts, the eminently familiar faces of Emma Watson and Saoirse Ronan, as well as the faces of Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen, flash on the screen: 2019’s wholesome and soft-feminist embodiment of those four famous girls some of us know so well from childhood. Unobjectionable, right? A new book called March Sisters also comes out this year, containing the musings of four well-known writers on their relationships to the book’s protagonists. But what about the latest adaptation of Emily Dickinson’s life, in which Hailee Steinfeld plays a punk-rock, badass Dickinson who writes about “wild nights”—and isn’t talking about religious ecstasy? For The Guardian, Adrian Horton asks how modernized should literary adaptations be? What liberties is it okay to take?

Our True-Crime Obsession

Rachel Monroe always wanted to be a person who’d written a book, but it took years to become someone who wanted to write a particular book. Her work as a reporter eventually led her to write Savage Appetites, which follows four women who become obsessed with violent crime, either as an investigator, defender, victim, or (would-be) killer. In a conversation with Jonny Auping for Longreads, Monroe discusses this fixation as a cultural phenomenon, saying that she was writing against “that feeling of numbness or checking out or zoning out that sometimes came over me…these stories sort of short circuit the parts of us that know better and have a sense of who is really at risk when you look at the statistical realities of crime versus these stories that make us all feel like at any moment someone is going to come through the door with a knife.”

Where to Submit Poetry in 2019

Here’s a thought experiment: Let’s say you’re a lover of poetry. Maybe you like to read our poetry excerpt series; perhaps you eagerly await our monthly must-read poetry lists. Now, a step further: perhaps you write poetry? Might you be looking for a place to submit said poetry (and have been energized, instead of dejected, by Glen Cadigan’s recent essay on submissions)? Is it possible that you have not yet compiled the highly detailed spreadsheet of poetry journals, submission dates, and contests that every aspiring poet must make before sending out a single poem for consideration? To get you started, Meimei Xu of The Adroit Journal has put together a list of the best places to submit poetry in 2019. Complete with information on submissions periods, links to past issues, and blurbs about the history and mission of each journal, the list includes both big names, like Ploughshares and The Kenyon Review, and lesser-known gems, like Diagram and Waxwing.

Whiteness Anonymous

In therapy, “the thing” is, traditionally, what’s not discussed, that which both therapist and patient avoid. “You only know it,” writes clinical psychologist Natasha Stovall, “by the silence and illogic that surrounds it, and the extremes to which the patient will go to erase any sign of it in their own mind, and in their therapist’s, too.” In her essay for Longreads, Stovall asks: “What if whiteness is the thing?” How do we treat whiteness?

Image Credit: Pxhere.

Maya Angelou in the Kitchen

In 1994, Maya Angelou cooked a meal of crowder peas, okra, and beef for a crowd of 150 people. The dinner was in honor of Toni Morrison—who had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature the previous year—and U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove. Although Angelou is less often associated with cooking and food writing, she would go on to write two underrated cookbooks, Mayukh Sen writes in an article for The Guardian. In Hallelujah! The Welcome Table and Great Food, All Day Long, Angelou’s food writing “hums with the same vibrancy that marks her more prominent work.”

Strange Cults, Powerful Elders, and Other Features of Academia

“A group of young, attractive, if somewhat emotionally crippled people, who otherwise seem to have things going for them, have decided upon a secret pact to effectively end their futures. They want you to join them. Dinner parties at other people’s houses are involved.” For McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Erika Vause asks the question that needed to be asked: Does this harrowing plot summary describe a critically acclaimed film of the 2010s, or does it describe your PhD program? (Spoiler alert: It’s both.) Pair with this list of horror films about writers from the archives and you’ve got a real scarefest on your hands. We’re laughing, but we’re also crying.