The Journal Gazette
Saturday, September 19, 2020 1:00 am

Summer novels among award nominees

HILLEL ITALIE | Associated Press

NEW YORK – Two of the summer's most talked about novels, Brit Bennett's “The Vanishing Half” and Megha Majumdar's “A Burning,” are on the National Book Awards fiction longlist. Judges also nominated the story collection “If I Had Two Wings,” by Randall Kenan, who died in August.

Fridays list concludes a week during which the National Book Foundation, which presents the awards, announced nominees for translation, poetry, young people's literature and nonfiction.

Others on the fiction list include Rumaan Alam's' “Leave the World Behind,” Christopher Beha's “The Index of Self-Destructive Acts,” Lydia Millet's' “A Children's Bible” and Deesha Philyaw's “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.” Also nominated were Vanessa Veselka's “The Great Offshore Grounds” and Charles Yu's “Interior Chinatown.”

The nonfiction list released Thursday had 10 nominees, including Isabel Wilkerson's “Caste,” her acclaimed study of racism in the United States. The poetry list features works by Natalie Diaz and Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, whose “Travesty Generator” features elegies to such victims of vigilante and police violence as Emmett Till, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin.

Wilkerson's book has been among the year's most talked about works, especially after Oprah Winfrey chose it this summer for her book club. “Caste” is Wilkerson's first publication in a decade, after the prize-winning “The Warmth of Other Suns,” a history of Black migration from the South in the 20th century.

Several nonfiction nominees center on race and social justice, including Les Payne's and Tamara Payne's “The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X,” Frank B. Wilkerson III's “Afropessimism,” Jerald Walker's “How to Make a Slave and Other Essays” and Karla Cornejo Villavicencio's “The Undocumented Americans.”

The other nonfiction books were Jill Lepore's “If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future,” Michelle Bowdler's “Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto,” Claudio Saunt's “Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory,” Jenn Shapland's “My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir” and Jonathan C. Slaght's “Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl.”

On Oct. 6, the lists will be narrowed from 10 to 5 books in each category. Winners will be announced Nov. 18, with honorary medals being awarded to novelist Walter Mosley and to the late Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy, whose husband will accept on her behalf.

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