National Book Awards

Usually when people hear about the NBA, basketball lineups race through their head, but there is another NBA out there. Each November, the nonprofit National Book Foundation awards its National Book Awards (NBA) to American authors to celebrate their newly published works, but finalists for each of the four categories were released earlier this month.

The NBA came into existence sixty-six years ago on March 16, 1950, when the NBA for poetry was awarded the famed poet William Carlos Williams.

Soon after this, the NBA grew in reputation, finding authors who shone amidst the endless newly published books.  The celebrated writers Katherine Paterson, Julia Child, William Faulkner, John Updike, Cormac McCarthy, Nathaniel Philbrick, Stephen Greenblatt, WH Auden, and Richard Wilber have since received an NBA for their work.

Today, the National Book Foundation selects the cream of the crop from four categories: Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Young People’s Literature.  This year, Kate DiCamillo, author of Becoming Winn-Dixie, and Jacqueline Woodson, 2014 winner of the NBA for young people’s literature, are among the 15 contestants.

Although Kate DiCamillo’s book, The Tiger Rising, was a finalist for the 2001 NBA for young people’s literature and her The Tale of Despereaux won a Newberry award, she has yet to recieve a National Book Award.  However, her new bestseller and Young People’s Literature finalist, Raymie Nightingale, became “The #1 Instant New York Times Bestseller,” according to her Facebook page  The book follows the main character, Raymie, as she shares in DiCamillo’s lifelong question: “What would I have done differently?”Both Raymie and DiCamillo’s childhood are rocked by the disintegration of their family and longing for a happy reunion.

Jacqueline Woodson, on the other hand, received the NBA for Young People’s Literature in 2014 for her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming. Woodson writes within various genres including: Children’s literature, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. Her New York Times Bestseller, Another Brooklyn, is a finalist for the NBA in fiction. Although directed to an adult audience, this book draws significantly from childhood years, as she says it is a time that is fundamentally shapes each both children and the adults they are to become.

Thirteen other candidates include former US poet laureate Rita Dove and Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen.

The National Book Foundation’s panel of critics consists of writers, librarians, and literary critics, and while they have reviewed the books over the past few months, panel members do not decide who the winners are until they are ceremoniously announced on November 16.Until then, we Americans have fifteen new books to read.