National Book Award Winners

book winners

The 2020 National Book Award Winners were announced Wednesday evening, November 18th. The prize for fiction went to Charles Yu for his book, Interior Chinatown and the nonfiction honor was bestowed upon Les Payne and Tamara Payne for their biography of Malcolm X, The Dead Are Arising. After a very long list of nominees were named earlier in the year, 25 writers were named finalists in October 2020.

This very presitigious award for literary writers dates back to 1950. Hosted this year by author Jason Reynolds, a two-time National Book Award finalist, this event is typically a very swanky affair held at Cipriani Wall Street. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, as so many other events this year, it was possible to reach out to a much larger digital audience.

Yu's novel, written in the form of a screenplay, was described by the judges as "wonderfully inventive" and "by turns hilarious and flat out heartbreaking." Yu announced that he was so certain he wouldn't win, he had no prepared remarks. He said, "I'm going to go melt in a puddle right now."

The biography of Malcolm X, was written by father and daughter team Les and Tamara Payne. Tamara finished the book after her father's death in 2018. In her acceptance speech she thanked her father "for bringing me on as his co-pilot."

The young people's literature award went to Kacen Callender for King and the Dragonflies. The award for poetry went to Don Mee Choi's DMZ Colony.