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2019 National Book Award Winners Announced

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Pierce Alquist

Senior Contributor

Pierce Alquist is a transplanted New Yorker living and working in the publishing scene in Boston. Don’t worry if she fooled you, the red hair is misleading. She’s a literature in translation devotee and reviewer and lover of small, independent presses. A voracious traveler and foodie, you can find her in her kitchen making borscht or covered in red pepper paste as she perfects her kimchi recipe.

The winners of the 2019 National Book Awards have been announced! In his rousing speech to open the 70th National Book Awards, acclaimed literary advocate and host LeVar Burton stated, “It is storytelling that holds our civilization together.” And in a year where none of the 25 finalists had previously won a National Book Award and the majority of the finalists were first time nominees, it was a night of storytelling, of new stories—a night where the winners told their stories of how they came to be there, the struggles and inspirations, and people along the way.

Winner of the nonfiction award for her memoir The Yellow House, Sarah M. Broom spoke movingly of her mother and her presence in Broom’s life and memoir. And Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai, winner of the translated literature award now in its second year in this iteration, thanked the foundation for the creation of the award and his translator Ottilie Mulzet, saying that through translators international writers can also “be at home in America.”

Among the other stories told was that of Oren J. Teicher, chief executive at the American Booksellers Association, who won this year’s Literarian Award for service to the wider literary community. The award was presented by author and bookstore co-owner Ann Patchett who remarked on Teicher’s tradition of working at the counters of various independent bookstores during the busy holiday season. And novelist and activist Edmund White who won the award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a lifetime achievement award, for his pioneering contributions to gay literature. His award was presented by the author and director John Waters.

And now to present the winners in each of the five categories—Young People’s Literature, Translated Literature, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction!

Young People’s Literature

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby

1919 The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler (Winner)

Judges this year: Elana K. Arnold, Kristen Gilligan, Varian Johnson, An Na (Chair), and Deborah Taylor

Translated Literature

Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa
Translated from the Arabic by Leri Price

Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai Translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Winner)

The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga
Translated from the French by Jordan Stump

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

Crossing by Pajtim Statovci
Translated from the Finnish by David Hackston

Judges this year: Keith Gessen, Elisabeth Jaquette, Katie Kitamura, Idra Novey (Chair), and Shuchi Saraswat


The Tradition by Jericho Brown

I: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte

Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky

Be Recorder by Carmen Giménez Smith

Sight Lines by Arthur Sze (Winner)

Judges this year: Jos Charles, John Evans, Vievee Francis, Cathy Park Hong, and Mark Wunderlich (Chair)


Solitary by Albert Woodfox with Leslie George

Judges this year: Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Carolyn Kellog, Mark Laframboise, Kiese Laymon, and Jeff Sharlet (Chair)


Trust Exercise by Susan Choi (Winner)

Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Judges this year: Dorothy Allison, Ruth Dickey, Javier Ramirez, Danzy Senna (Chair), and Jeff VanderMeer

Curious about the other nominated titles? Looking for more great recommendations? Check out the 2019 National Book Awards Longlists.