The 10 Best Quotes at the National Book Award Ceremony

On Wednesday night, Book Riot had a press presence at the National Book Awards Ceremony for the very first time. The event was memorable for the red carpet, the giant gold disco ball at the after party, and the amazing collection of writers. But most of all, the National Book Award Ceremony was important because of the words that were spoken.

  1. “Trump had white people racing to those ballots like they were voting for their first white president… I don’t know, is America ready for a white president?”
    -Host Larry Wilmore, American comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, media critic, and former television host.
  2. “Cave Canem poetry is fortification of your present and future… We have seen a black president, and we are seeing what kind of president comes after a black president.”
    – Terrance Hayes, presenter of the 2016 Literarian Award
  3. We must be the dog that guards the house. We must be the bark and the bite.”
    – Terrance Hayes
  4. “We get to say who we are, the fullness of who we are, the contradiction of who we are, in our own way.”
    – Cornelius Eady, co-founder of Cave Canem Foundation, Inc., in his acceptance speech for the Literarian Award for Outstanding Servive to the American Literary Community. This was the first time this award was given to an organization instead of an individual.
  5. “Joy is an act of resistance.”
    -Toi Dericotte, co-founder Cave Canem Foundation, Inc.
  6. “And there is the companion of my life – my companion of everything – Ina.”
    -Robert Caro, recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution, thanking his wife in his acceptance speech.
  7. “When I was a boy, we were told that the libraries were for whites and not for coloureds… But I had a wonderful teacher in elementary school who told me to read, read, read.”
    Congressman John Lewis, in his acceptance speech for March, Book 3, winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
  8. “The story of the movement must be told.”
    – Andrew Aydin, in his acceptance speech for March, Book 3, winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
  9. “In the midst of the human ugliness of racism, there was the human beauty… There is the human beauty in the resistance to racism.”
    -Ibram X. Kendi, in his acceptance speech for Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction
  10. “Be kind to everybody, make art, and fight the power.”
    -Colson Whitehead, winner of the National Book Award in the Fiction category for his book, The Underground Railroad
Karina Glaser: Karina Yan Glaser is a full-time writer and illustrator with a varied career teaching and implementing literacy programs in family homeless shelters and recruiting healthcare professionals to volunteer in under-resourced areas around the world. Karina is the New York Times bestselling author of the middle grade books, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden. She lives in Harlem with her husband, two daughters, and an assortment of rescued animals. One of her proudest achievements is raising two kids who can't go anywhere without a book. Website:; Twitter: @KarinaYanGlaser; Instagram: @KarinaIsReadingAndWriting