NEW YORK (AP) — Charles Yu’s satirical, cinematic novel “Interior Chinatown” has won the National Book Award for fiction.
Tamara Payne and her father the late Les Payne’s Malcolm X biography, “The Dead Are Arising,” was cited for nonfiction and Kacen Callender’s “King and the Dragonflies” for young people’s literature. The poetry prize went to Don Mee Choi’s “DMZ Colony” and the winner for best translated work was Yu Miri’s “Tokyo Ueno Station,” translated from Japanese by Morgan Giles.
Honorary medals were given Wednesday night to mystery novelist Walter Mosley and to the late CEO of Simon & Schuster, Carolyn Reidy, who died in May at age 71. The children’s author and current US Youth Ambassador for young adult literature Jason Reynolds served as emcee, and along with Bob Woodward and Walter Isaacson was among the Simon & Schuster writers who appeared in a taped tribute to Reidy.
Because of the pandemic, one of publishing’s most high-profile gatherings was streamed online, with presenters and winners speaking everywhere from New York to Japan. The traditional dinner ceremony is the nonprofit National Book Foundation’s most important source of income and is usually held at Cipriani Wall Street, where publishers and other officials pay thousands of dollars for tables or individual seats. The foundation instead has been asking for donations of $50 or more. As of Wednesday evening, just over $490,000 had been pledged from 851 donors.
“It’s hard in a pandemic. We were scared we wouldn’t be able to do this show,” said foundation executive director Lisa Lucas, speaking online from the children’s room of the Los Angeles Public Library. Executive director since 2016, she will depart at the end of the year to become publisher for the Penguin Random House imprints Pantheon and Schocken. Her successor has not been announced.
Winners in each of the competitive categories receive $10,000, and other finalists $1,000, with the money divided equally between the author and translator for best translated book. Roxane Gay, Rebecca Makkai and Dinaw Mengestu were among the authors, booksellers and others in the publishing community who as awards judges selected finalists from more than 1,600 books — many of them read digitally because of the pandemic.