Winners of the 2022 National Book Awards were announced in a live awards ceremony on November 16 in New York City. From the 25 finalists unveiled in October, five winners were chosen for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature.
The awards ceremony was opened and hosted by Padma Lakshmi, an award-winning producer of the Hulu docuseries Taste the Nation and a New York Times bestselling author. In her remarks, she took the opportunity to address the ongoing book banning efforts. “Today, books like mine are under attack…The main books targeted discussed LGBTQ+ themes or characters, have protagonists of color, address issues of race and racism, or all three…this rise in book banning isn’t simply from a few concerned parents. It’s a massive censorship campaign from organizations working with state and local officials to restrict access to books, and it coincides with the passage of the parental rights in education law in Florida or the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.”
Lakshmi went on to say that deciding what books are in school libraries is the job of librarians, not politicians. “It’s not the job of politicians to want to continue to whitewash this country.”
Then, she revealed that when doing the research for her Hulu show, she had discovered there was so much about the country’s history that she did not learn in school, but should have. She admitted that she needed to learn more about Indigenous history, immigrant history, and institutional racism. “I don’t want my daughter to be shielded from history. I want her to have access to what was missing from my classrooms. I want kids of her generation to learn the truth and not just the truth that isn’t painful. Looking at the truth of our history, of who we were and who we are now as a country, are the first steps to understanding and reconciling the past sins of our nation. But we can’t learn those lessons if we’re not even allowed to open those books.”
Before revealing the winners of this year’s National Book Awards, Ibram X. Kendi presented Tracie D. Hall with the 2022 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, while Neil Gaiman presented the 2022 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Art Spiegelman.
The winners of the 2022 National Book Awards are as follows:
The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty
Tess Gunty’s debut novel The Rabbit Hutch, about Blandine and three other teenagers sharing a derelict apartment, won the Fiction category.
This year’s Fiction judges were Michelle Malonzo, Pam Houston, Dana Johnson, Brandon Hobson, and Ben Fountain.
The winner for Nonfiction was Imani Perry’s South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation, which explores societal issues in the American South.
The Nonfiction category was judged this year by Carol Anderson, Melissa Febos, Thor Hanson, Janet Webster Jones, and Oscar Villalon.
Punks: New & Selected Poems by John Keene
The winner for Poetry was John Keene’s Punks: New & Selected Poems, which is an ode to the poet’s friends, lovers, and prominent Black people, among others.
This year’s Poetry judges were Kwame Dawes, Juan Felipe Herrera, Keetje Kuipers, January Gill O’Neil, and Mai Der Vang.
Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell
The winner of the Translated Literature category was Samanta Schweblin’s Seven Empty Houses, a collection of short stories featuring seven houses and translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell.
Russell Scott Valentino, Veronica Esposito, Ann Goldstein, Rohan Kamicheril, and Nick Buzanski were this year’s Translated Literature judges.
Young People’s Literature
All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
Sabaa Tahir’s All My Rage, which follows the lives of four Pakistani immigrants in the United States, was named Young People’s Literature winner.
Lilliam Rivera, Becky Albertalli, Joseph Bruchac, Meghan Dietsche Goel, and Jewell Parker Rhodes were this year’s Young People’s Literature judges.
Each winner received $10,000 as well as a bronze sculpture, while each finalist received a bronze medal and $1,000. For the Translated Literature Award, the prize money is split equally between the translator and the author.
The National Book Awards, established in 1950, recognize outstanding works of writing by American authors.