tv 2016 National Book Awards CSPAN November 24, 2016 2:45pm-4:31pm EST
wilmore. ♪ ♪ >> thank you very much. [cheers and applause] thank you. thank you very much. can everyone hear me okay? great! well, welcome. man, what a nice night. welcome to the 2016 national book awards. yes. [cheers and applause] that's right. or, as it's going to be called next year, the trump national luxurious evening for books big league. [laughter] that's right. get used to it, everybody. [laughter] man, what a week! how was your week? this was very bizarre for me, i have to -- wasn't tuesday night the most surreal night ever? i've been watching elections since i was a kid, i have never experienced a night like -- i don't even have a word for it.
a friend of mine said that was exciting, wasn't it? i'm like, exciting? be i don't know if i'd use the word exciting. it's exciting in the same way as an asteroid hurtling toward earth is exciting. [laughter] yeah, it's spectacular, but i think we're going to die soon. [laughter] that's what it felt like. it's hard to explain the feelings. i voted for hillary, i'm a democrat, i admit it. democrats, we were so happy at the beginning of the night, right? [cheers and applause] history was going to be made, all those kind of things, you know? and by the end of the night, it was like everybody's dog had died. [laughter] it's so horrible, right? you know, the only analogy that makes sense to me, it's, it felt as if we were all opening a brand new samsung galaxy note 7, right? [laughter] like, man, this is a nice phone, right in whoo! can't wait to get it open. [laughter] right? because when you plug in that
new 30e7b phone and you start charging it, the only thing on your mind is i wonder what timea this phone is going to be ready for me to use, right? not i wonder will my house be burned down to the ground. [laughter] that's what out felt like at the end of that night. it was so bizarre. i think it is kind of unfair though for people to say hillary lost. it's kind of -- well, i think she's going to win the popular vote, right? or she's ahead two million? a million and a half, man. you know, it's also fair to say that trump won, you know, i think trump had more passionate people for him especially in certain areas than hillary had for her. i mean, guys, come on. when you think about it, trump had white people racing to those ballots like they were voting for the first white president,t, let's be honest, right? [laughter] come on, clinton, let's go! might be our only chance.ance. oh, my god. [laughter]
i'm a little worried though, i have to admit, i'm a little concerned. i don't know, is america ready for a white president? [laughter] i don't know. once you go black, you know how it goes. [laughter] i don't know. [laughter] just putting it out ott there. oh, thank you. but it is interesting, you know, even the coming trump presidency is even affecting the book world. i don't know if you guys knew this, but apparently bookstores have said that they're taking all copies of the constitution and movinghem from the government section to the fiction section. [laughter] so, yeah. i know, it's sad. and all copies of trump's books are moving from the nonfiction section to the horror section. i think that's appropriate. [laughter] i actually think that's appropriate. and now, there's another thing i can't believe, they're also taking classic books, and they have to change the title just to make it coincide with what'san going on in the country right now.
this really makes me sad. "the great gatsby" is now going to be called the terrific, and i mean terrific, gatsby. [laughter]ha little women will now be known as little women who i'll be dating this in ten years. oh, like i said that, right? [laughter] that's what he said. the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy is now the hitchhiker's guide to canada. oh, very nice. [laughter] that's actually very helpful. pride and prejudice now has toat be called pride and -- [inaudible] [laughter] yeah, i censored myself a little bit. a "clockwork orange", now -- oh, actually, there's no change for ""clockwork orange"." [laughter] that actually is staying the same. and finally this one really makes me sad, my favorite,
dr. seuss, the cat in the hat now has to be called grab 'em by the pussy cat in the hat. >> oh! [laughter] >> that's actually not a bad word though, so -- all right, shall we get this evening started? [applause] let's do it. actually, that was really a clean joke, it just sounded like a dirty joke. it really did. i wasn't going to do that joke, but billy bush egged me on. [laughter] so, yeah, i know. i know. he just -- [laughter] this is going to be a fun night. i'm actually very excited to be here. i love books, i love the fact that we celebrate books. books may be our only evidence of a civilized society at some point. [laughter] i'm starting to beeve that can be true. so thank you, everybody, who's written a book, who's edited a book, who's published books and who has supported books, thank you very much. [applause] no, it means the world to me. in fact, just a real quick story, i sold books door to door one summer, be i wrote about this last year.
and i just will tell you real quick. at the end of it, this family couldn't afford the books. at the end of the summer, i left the books there for their kids, it's one of the things that really inspired me to do a lot of things that i'm doing. so thank you, book people, is what i want to say. [applause] and now -- yes. we need it, we need books, right? now please welcome to the stage the chairman of the national book foundation, david steinberger. [applause] ♪ ♪ >> good evening, and on behalf of the national book foundation, i'd like to welcome you to the 67th national book awards.
[applause] it's always one of the things that makes this evening special, having so many wonderful writers in the room. we've got multiple winners of the national book award, we have winners of the pulitzer prize, we have winners of the newberry, the nebula, the penn faulkner, the edgar, the the o'henry, the thurber, we have writers who have been nominated for every possible award. i'd like to recognize the writers in this room. i'm going to ask you, if you are a writer, will you stand up? please stand right now. encourage your writers to stand -- [cheers and applause] and join me in acknowledging them. [cheers and applause]
powng r thank -- thank you. thank you. now, i would like to thank our sponsors who make this event possible, specifically thank you premiere sponsors, penguiner random house, barnes & noble, leadership sponsors, lyndon meyer book publishing papers, coral graphics and sponsors amazon, google, hachette, harpercollins, alberto vitali and the zelnick charitable trust. thank you, all of you, for your support.ll of yo [applause] special thank you to apple and
ibooks who are hosting year's afterparty. and i've been told we're going to have a giant disco ball, right? is that -- where's lisa? >> yes. >> yes, right? it's coming. so it's going to be right here on the balcony behind me here. you're all invited to the afterparty. thank you also to our after party committee. jim, paul, nicole, thank you. [applause] thank you also to our dinner committee who made this evening possible, that's dita, lee,posse luke, deborah, nicholas, tracy and shelley. thank you. [applause] now, i'd like to thank the staff of the national book foundation
that does such an amazing job and especially our executive director, our new executive director, lisa lucas. [cheers and applause] lisa -- you know, it's funny, because everyone i run into this evening is saying to me, where did you find this person? she's unbelievable. we can't get over her. i'm just glad i'm talking before she is, so it's like people aren't going to be saying, like, who's in this guy talking after lisa? but we are thrilled with lisa's drive, her enthusiasm, her devotion and commitment to the written word. she has made such a dangerous x she is going to make a great difference. so thank you to lisa and her team at the foundation. [applause] i want to acknowledge in thewl
audience also our former executive direct, herald. can we get a cheer here for harold? [cheers and applause] he's still working for us looking at translation, it's great to have harold here. where's harold? back here somewhere, right? [applause] and finally, i want to thank my fellow board members who are so committed to the work of the foundation. and i want to give special thanks to the members of the search committee who worked on this transition from harold to lisa, worked so hard on this and did such a great job, that is carolyn, calvin, re hold in -- reynold and, of course, our vice chairman, morgan. thank you to the board. [applause] now, our mission -- i was asked tonight, what is the mission of the national book foundation.
our mission is to increase the impact of great books on the culture. it's pretty important. so i want to thank you for being here and being part of that important mission. and to all of our finalists for this year's national book award, congratulations on your wonderful, wonderful achievement and good luck tonight, and now on to the awards ceremony. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, david. and now to present the literarian award for outstandinn service to the american literary committee is terence hayes. [applause] now, terrance is the author of the winner of the 2010 national book award and finalist for the
national book critics' circle award.t his other books are wind in the box, hip logic and muscular music. his honors include a writers' award, a national endowment for the arts fellowship, a united states zell fellow ship, a guggenheim fellowship and a macarthur fellowship. the 2016 national book critics' circle award and received a 2016 naacp image award for poetry. it gives me great pleasure to welcome terrance hayes. [applause] ♪ ♪ >> all right. often over the years, i've been
asked why a group of black poets would call itself -- [inaudible] >> whoo! >> it's latin. [laughter] because blackness, like poetry,e means different things, i like to say. for example, once upon a time two black poets visiting the lost city of pompei entered the house of the tragic poet and saw, upon entering, a sign on the gate. later, when they had the idea for a retreat for black poets, that's what they called it, kavekanum, latin for beware of the dark. what does it mean to be the dog guarding the house of poetry?etr maybe they never paused to ask such a question or, 20 years later, they are still asking the question. because blackness, like poetry,u
means many things, they welcomed black poets of every shade and age, from every and the middle of nowhere, spoken worders, academics, e peoplerrallists, formists, students and professors, ex-cons, weirdoes, librarians, atheists, priests and piece he'ses. i ain't bullshitting. [laughter] the initial gathering of 26 poets included the 82-year-old granddaughter of a confederate general as well as a former disc jockey who decided to live in homeless shelters so he'd have time studying to become a poet. now, with well over 300 fellows, the group is one of the most diverse, one of the most diverse poetry organizations in the country. in 1968 when a white policeman erroneously shot 33-year-old
black poet henry dumas in the subway station in harlem, no one imagined a nation of black poete could exist. such a futuristic idea. a world in which the descendants of slaves become poets. elizabeth bishop said poetry is a way of thinking with one's feelings. and clifton, one of our first teachers, one of the first poets to see the value of such a place, famously wrote: come celebrate with me that every day something has tried to kill me and has failed. [applause] imagine 20 years of thinking with one's feelings while something is trying to kill youg all kinds of magical things open up in is such a place.e. in such a place.
it happens during the fellows' readings sometimes. poets age 18-88, like i say, all styles and dispositions, get up to the open mike to read a poem -- open mic to read a poem. it's amazing. the summer i taught there, there was this brother from chicago, avery, a strange, brilliant brother tuned to some supernatural frequency. a cross between sunra and donny hathaway. [laughter] so when avery's turn to share a poem came, he started singing. where were you when they killed that boy? where were you when they killed that boy. i thought he was just going to sing a little bit before the poem.ht but he went on like that. singing the blues. an emmett till gospel like five or six minutes walking around the room like he was possessed. would you kill the men who killed that boy, he was singing.
would you kill for that boy? would you kill for that boy? would you live for that boy? would you live for that boy? church. he was sweating and panting when he was done. and so i, i tried to breathe, and i couldn't breathe. i started heading for the door. i left the room, and i found myself kneeling, i don't know how long. i becaused him alone -- i cutsed him alone in the darkness outside, motherfucker. and when i was done, i was about to head back inside when i was met by a crowd of people weeping and hyperventilating. i thought i was the only one. he cleared the room. so maybe half an hour later, the reading continued. no one could say what had happened exactly. n and even this here is just about 5% of what happened.
what would happen if you brought a bunch of black poets together in a safe place? if you became the black andin faithful dog guarding that place, what would happen? we know the poets affiliated with such a place wouldd flourish, because they have. but we also know many more brilliant, unaffiliated black poets remain imperilled or overlooked or just willfully writing alone. writing is lonely all the time. no organization can change that. but our organization is a kind of fortification. even if you are not a poet or black, it is a fortification of your language, your history, your future. we have seen a black president,. and we are seeing what kind ofof president comes after a black president. we've seen, and we still are
seeing, black men and women killed by people sworn to pe protect them. our lives remain in danger, which is to say your lives remain in danger. we need arts organizations like caf say can numb, organizations that put writers in schools, homeless shelters, prisons and myriad underserved communities. sometimes your living room is an underserved community. nonprofit arts associations need your support, your loyalty, your bark and your bite. we must be the dogs guarding the house. we are here tonight to say thank you for your work, toy and cornelius. thank you. [applause] you done a good job. [applause] you have made possible so many
>> wow. [laughter] i am most grateful to the national book foundation for this validation. i accept this award in the names of our 440 fellows all over theo country. our visionary executive directors, carolyn nick lin and allison meyers. the innkeeper for the birth of cave canem, father francis. our first retreat staff, terrance hayes and michelle elliot. our first faculty, elizabeth alexander and afa weaver. our productive and hard working board members during the past 20 years. our current board president,boar jacqueline jones lemond, our office and retreat staff and all of those who have given their knowledge, skills, money and love.
foremost, i want to thank my beloved friends, sarah and cornelius, my partners in crime. for the shared passion that we have been so privileged toprivig enjoy. each year in the opening circle on the first night, more than 50 african-american poets look across the room, some of whom have never worked with another african-american poet, and see themselves reflected back. their beauty and power. there is an outpouring of tears, gratitude and joy. all over the country, there are fellows writing poems and building communities who have gone through this transformation. in 2015, three cave canem poets won top literary awards.
robin lewis won for voyage of the sable venus. [applause] blake, the pulitzer prize for digest. [applause] ed rossgate, the new york book critics' circle awards for catalog of unabashed gratitude. [applause] i believe that the cave canem poets will be the flesh and blood of the work that our country can needs so urgently to do, especially now. this energy does not belong to us, it was passed down through the creative genius of oureativn ancestors which was their response to slavery and oppression. we do them honor by passing it on. joy is an act of resistance. thank you. [applause]
very powerful. that's what i call controlling the narrative. you know? whenever people get to control the narrative, we get to hear amazing stories, and i think it makes all of us better. and be now to present the medal for distinguished contribution is dr. william p. kelly. dr. william p. kelly's the andrew w. mellon director of the research libraries responsible for the libraries' four research centers and their 460 staff members. now, his responsibilities include collection strategy, acquisition and accessibility, researcher or engagement, preservation, long-term and short-term fellowships and taking a lead role in importantt research initiatives such as the recruitment of new curators, renovations and preserving and expanding the use of the most democratically accessible of research collections. kelly began his tenure at nypl in january 2016, and previously
chairman of the research foundation of the city university of new york and spent eight successful years of the cuny graduate center. and so it gives me great pleasure to welcome dr. william p. kelly. [applause] ♪ ♪ >> good evening and thank you, larry. it's a privilege to present the national book foundation's lifetime achievement medal for distinguished contribution too american letters to robert a. caro to. a much-deserved honor, this, and a singularly appropriate one. bob's career has been crowned with laurel, he has been widely
recognized as the greatest biographer of our times. one might well argue of all time. he has been celebrated as the most consequential interpreter of the american 20th century. his magisterial accounts of the careers of robert moses and lyndon johnson haveth fundamentally altered our understanding of the act by its -- acquisition and the deployment of power. his stature in the first rank of american journalists is beyond dispute. his passion for getting the story right and his commitment and that of his great partner, ina caro to, to pursue every lead, every source, every archival trace is the stuff of legend. his many honors and awards including two pulitzers, a national book award, two national book critics' circle awards, the gold medal from the
american academy, the parkman prize, the national humanities medal, bear witness to that pursuit. so, too, his impact on a generation of journalists who have profited from his example. the medal we present tonight acknowledges bob's accomplishments as biographer, historian and journalist, but it celebrates something larger, more capacious, subsuming. it honors bob's contribution to american letters. as such, it recognizes in this company of writers the power of the word and of bob's genius for wielding that authority and our common interest. at the heart of bob's achievement is language itself, its capacity to make us present, to feel, to engage with actors across time and space and to change the way we see and to
inform the way we live. that power resides in words, in sentences in the alignment of paragraphs and in the arrangement of pages. if bob's accuracy in a function be -- is a function of his attention to detail, his narrative powers derive from getting the language right,t, every clause, every prepositiong every semicolon. most often in reference to the history place, yes, his mastery of character and of narrative design, his rendering of ambition and its discontents call to mind richard, henry iv, henry v, but it is on level of language that bob's affinities are most apart. rhythm, balance, the poise ofre his p sentences -- his sentences undergird and drive the stories he tells.
that is the source of their power, the propulsion that drives bob's chapters and books forward, the pulse that keeps us turning pages through the night. bob's sentences and the booksgh they constitute have made us conscious of the ubiquity of power, of its presence in the most intimate aspects of our lives, of its capacity for great good and even greater evil, of the need to recognize its often invisible exercise and the imperative to resist its abuse. that is a gift of a rare order, never more critical than in these days.re please join me in saluting the master of american letters, robert a. caro. [applause]
♪ ♪ [applause] >> well, bill, that was such a wonderful introduction that i'm reminded of what lyndon johnson used to say when he got an especially wonderful introduction. he would say that he wished his parents were alive to hear it.ao [laughter] because his father would have loved it, and his mother would have believed it. [laughter] i've discovered in the last couple of weeks, since i was told i had gotten this lifetime award, that there's one particularly nice aspect of getting a lifetime award, it makes you think back over your lifetime. and doing that has a made me remember some wonderful things
that i had forgotten for a long time. t of course, when you start remembering, you remember some tough times too. i remember robert moses, who was then at height of his power, saying i will never talk to you, my family will never talk to you, my friends will never talk to you -- [laughter] and then he had another sentence, i can't remember the exact words, but the import wasn nobody who ever wants a contract from the city or state will ever talk to you. [laughter] and i remember thinking, what do i do now? [laughter] i remember running out of money. my contract for the power broker was $5,000, which i had gotten $2500 in advance. ina and i used to joke that we were doing the book for the world's smallest advance. but for those of you who are writers, that stopped being funny very quickly. [laughter] and i remember seven years of
listening to people say no one will ever read a book about robert moses. but looking back on it, if you say that life is in a way a journey, it's been a great journey.ou i've always loved finding things out and trying to explain them. and that's what happened with these books. with robert moses, i had been a young journalist who got interested in political power. i had won some minor journalistic awards. believe me, really minor. but when you're young and you win any kind of an award, you think you know everything. but when robert moses finally, after several years, agreed to talk to me and he started talking, i realized in the first moments that he was talking that i knew nothing about political power, that this man was operating and thinking on a level far beyond anything, far above anything i had ever thought.
and i had to the try to understand it. i had to try to understand it. time and again as he would say something, i remember thinking, wow, i never thought about that. it was great for me, getting those lessons into what political power -- not the kind we learn about in textbooks, but real political power, the raw naked essence of power finish really consists of. then there was learning the texas hill country, that remote, impoverished, isolated area where lyndon johnson grew up. i was interviewing people who had grown up with johnson there, and i realized that i wasn't really understanding them. therefore, i really wasn't understanding lyndon johnson. so ina and i moved there for the better part of three years to learn this whole new world which was so different from the world of new york many which i had grown -- in which i had grown up. i was about 39 then when i started. g let me tell you that living in and learning, having to learn a whole new world when you're that
age, that was a great gift to me. but, of course, if life is in the way a journey, the most important thing about a journeyh is your companions. getting this award made me think of the people who have been my companions, and that has beenwh the most wonderful thing of all. in 1972 in my fifth year after starting "the power broker," i finally got an agent, lynn necessary bit, and i got a new editor -- [applause] and i got a new editor, bob gottlieb, at alfred can knopf. and i also got another editor, kathy horrigan, who has worked -- [cheers and applause] who has worked with bob gottlieb on all my books. bob has been my editor, lynn has been my agent, and kathy has worked on my books ever since.
1972. to save you the trouble of calculating, that's 44 years ago. [laughter] so for all that time, 44 years, i have had the same editors and the same agent. together we have worked on five books. whatever lifetime achievement i have, bob and lynn and kathy are part of it. those three people were with me 44 years ago, and they're with me today. 4 that fact alone makes looking back on my life terrific. another person has been a big part of my life, sunny. sunny came to knopf disease. -- knopf in 1987. [applause] so sunny is a relative newcomer in my life. [laughter] 29 years is barely more than a quarter of a century, hardly worth mentioning. [laughter] it has meant a lot to me to have sunny with me.
whenever i have a manuscript, i go in to see him.sc and in complimenting the manuscript, he always says, picks out the very things that i most wanted readers to get out of the book. he has a gift, and it's quite a rare gift, in my experience, for seeing, for grasping and being able to explain the very heart of a book. another thing about sonny, not once in 29 years has he asked me or had anyone else ask me when am i going to be finished with my books. [laughter] [applause] i have literally never once in 44 years heard that question at knopf. never one as i proposed expanding the number of volumes in the years of lyndon johnson from three to four and now to five -- [laughter]
this is has he had any words for me except words of encouragement. thanks, sonny. there is another person whom i especially want to thank, andy hughes. [applause] andy is the person most responsible for the facts that my books -- long, though they are -- are always beautiful books. in addition, my insistence on rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. rewriting with my books in galleys and even page proofs, rewriting even in the very last stage of page proofs causes a lot of problems. somehow andy always solves them. thanks for that, andy. [laughter] since i have been at the same publishing house for 44 years, i have other people at knopf to thank. tony, whose support of the long
johnson project has been unstinting, paul bow guard -- who in moments of crisis, and we've had a lot of moments of crisis, has always been there for me. ann, link nicholas latimer, russell perot. as i walk around the halls of my publishing house, they seem to me to be filled not only with friends, but with the friends of decades. and, of course, there is the companion of my whole life, the most important companion in everything. when i learned that i was getting this award and started thinking back over my life, naturally the first person i thought of was ina. i remembered her selling the house. i didn't really care much about the house, but ina looed that house -- loved that house. we really had no place else to turn for money, and i came home one day, and she came up to me x before i got out of the car she
said, we sold the house today. i remembered how she never let me know all the indignities of being broke. it was only after new yorker bought "the power broker" that she said now i can walk past the butcher's again. [laughter] i had never even known that we were unable to pay bills there so that she had had to choose ai different shopping area. i remember when i told her that i wasn't understanding the hill country, and we would have to move there. maybe for two or three years. [laughter] she said, why can't you write a biography of napoleon? [laughter] [applause] but, of course, then she said what she always says, sure. and, of course, ina has been so much more than that. i read sometimes about historians who have teams of three or perhaps four
researchers. i have a team of researchers too, and it's ina. she is the whole team. the only person i have ever trusted to do research on my books.tr ina has, of course, written two wonderful books of her own. but somehow, despite that, she hahas always found time -- she has always found time for mine. thanks, ina. [applause] so when i was told some weeks ago that i would be getting this award, i started remembering ala so it is with a very full heart that i thank the national book foundation, its director, linda lucas, who wrote me that
wonderful letter to tell me i had won, and all the other people at the foundation. this award has made me rememberf a life, and that's been a great gift to me. thank you all. [applause] >> very nice. now, that's how you do an acceptance speech. i'd love to see that on the t oscars, bob, we need you. he's like, no, no, i am not finished. [laughter] that was so great, so heartfelt. i'm so inspired, i want to go out and read all these books. that sounds fascinating, all the -- everything he was talking about. [laughter] everything. [laughter]
i want to meet all the people he talked about and everything about robert moses too. but look, we're going to have a short dinner break, and then we're going to come back after the dinner break, and we're going to continue the awards. i hear they're serving some very delicious steak, so enjoy that. word of caution though, if you eat a piece of meat and something happens, you don't feel good and, you know, everything you say starts not making sense, nobody can understand you, you probably got a trump steak, so be very careful. [laughter] i had to stick another one in there, come on, guys. all right, enjoy your dinner, we'll see you right after.ght ae [applause] ♪ ♪
i hope the dinner was lovely enter now for the lead good part to find that what you have been wondering belinda national book award 2016? our fabulous house to said is this saying but that also looks as an act of resistance for and so i'd say that putting on our dresses and our tuxedos and being together and celebrating literature is, in fact, an act of resistance. [applause] a reminder that we can repair our country and our world, and we can be together, and we can still feel joy and happiness. so i'm brand new. this is my first year as executive director of the national book foundation.
[cheers and applause] nati and i'm super nervous. this is my first time on this stage. i'm unlikely to write a novel or a biography, and so it might not be ever for any other reason other than to welcome you guys all here. but looking out at all of you bright lights in this room reminds me that this role is a profound honor, a tremendous responsibility and truly a dream come true. it's my dream job. i'm a reader -- [applause] a capital r reader, and the practice of reading books, talking about books, learning from them, loving them has brought more joy and moree empathy and more magic into my life than i can ever really truly express. and i believe really deeply,
really truly deeply that this work matters. [applause] i am a black woman, obviously, but i am the first woman, i'm the first person of color to serve or in this role -- [cheers and applause] and that's a source of pride for me. it's also a source of inspiration. and i'm reminded every day that as a black woman, it's my job to keep making sure that there are more seats at an ever-expanding table. one that includes anyone with the capacity for wonder, with curiosity and with passion -- which is to say everyone, no matter where they look like or where they come from or who they love. [applause] being up here in general is a really emotional moment for me
and especially so in this time where many of us in this room and in this nation find ourselves disoriented, disconnected and unclear about what's to come. so tonight at the 67th national book awards, let us remember that books give us hope, that they give us comfort, that they light our way, that they instruct us and that they bring us together. but the simple act of reading creates community where each and every one of us will always becr welcome. and together we can work to make that community of readers bigger and stronger and more powerful. and so my hope, hi deepest -- my deepest hope is that every single person in this room will join the foundation in making a commitment to doing so tonight.> so before i continue to go on and on and and blow way past my
time limit which i have so gently told everybody not to, i'd like to give some thanks, and i have a lot of thanks to give. so first of all, thank you so much to our wonderful host, larry wilmore. [applause] it is a pleasure and a privilege to have you here. you're super funny. thank you, as david said earlier, to our generous sponsors. without you, we would literally not be here. thank you to apple and to ibooks for hosting tonight's party. stick around, there's going to be a really big discoe ball which looks -- discoball which looks pretty much like my dress. laugh and we're grateful to each and every one of our partners who help us to run our practice, because we are more than just an award. we work year round to bring readers or into the fold, and we're grateful to everybody who helps us to do that through ourt book-up program -- [applause] through our program eat, drink
and be literary at the brooklyn academy of music, through our hba on -- mba on campus program, to five under 35, some or of our authors are here. [applause] and i'd also like to thank, first off for my job, but in general for being incredible, the national book foundation's board of directors. [applause] the board of directors of the national book foundation terrified me when i first met them all. i didn't think i would make it through my first meeting. but despite how swim dating they might -- intimidating they might seem on paper, in real life they are warm and loving and passionate and smart, and they care so much about this work. it is an absolute joy to have such backing and to have so much warmth and care dumped into this
organization that we work to keep alive every single day. and in particular, i'd like to call out david steinberger who -- [applause] who has been a mentor, who has tolerated my phone calls every single tuesday morning for the past nine months and who cares so much, but not only cares, but also believes that we can do more, be more and grow to be an organization that has a profound impact on the way that we read in america. i'd also like to thank my predecessor, harold. [applause] i promised him that i'd embarrass him with my love from the stage. a baton has never been passed so warmly. he has taken every single phone call, every single panic attack. he has built this organization. he has made work possible. -- this work possible. most of the things you're seeing
tonight are things that harold thought of. there are to-do lists on a 278 national book award task list. and he's just an amazing man. he's working at the foundation again on his translation project with the mellon foundation and, man, i'll never forget harold,il so long as i live on earth, because of the gift that he's begin me, this beautiful transition into an organization that has the opportunity to flourish has been tremendous.on so thank you, harold, thank you so much for everything that you've done. [applause] next up is the staff at the national book foundation. [cheers and applause] they are our everything, so shout out to courtney gillette -- [applause] to ben samuel, to laura donovan, to meredith andrews, to sherry young, to jordan smith and to jonathan walsh. we are small but mighty. [applause]
and i'm proud of you all. and now for our judges who read a combined total of 1,464 books to identify the 20 finalistok titles and the 22 finalists that you will see tonight. thank you for enduring and for building strong relationships with your ups person. [laughter]person so where would we be tonight without all of the remarkable and talented writers in thisle d room? our finalists, thank you mores your with work and your -- for your work and your spirit and your vision. it helps us to better understand who we are, where we come from and where we might hope to go. you help us to dream and to understand. i used a quote when i interviewed for this job, and it feels really relevant, it feels
really inspiring now to me in this moment. and so ralph ellison, a 1953 national book award winner, once said: literature is integrated. and i'm not just talking about color or race, i'm talking about the power of literature to make us recognize. and again and again, the wholeness of the human experience. and so why are we here tonight? why did we bother when this world is such a disaster to get this gussied up in our gowns and our tuxedos -- and i see you if you didn't wear one -- [laughter] what are we to do? aren't there more important matters to attend to? but no, it's about trying to seek out what the wholeness ofd the human experience is. our mission at the national book foundation is to celebrate the best of american literature and to expand this audience and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in america. we need books right now more
than we ever have. we need our writers more than we ever have. we need thoughtful critique, wer need stories and poems and novels and graphic memoirs and essays and thoughtful prose, and we need them to inspire us and to recognize us and to affirm our place in the world. we need literary activists of io all kinds who are going to help every kind of reader find and share in the beauty and power of books. but more than anything, need to reach readers, new readers and the already initiated, young and adult, immigrant and citizen of every religion, race and politics. because i believe now more than ever we need to to come together, we need to understand who we can be, how much there is to achieve yet and how far that we can go. and there is no better way to start the conversations that we
need to have than by reading and connecting through the books that we are celebrating here tonight, the 20 books that we are celebrating here tonight stirred us. [applause] and so i hope that you will join me not just tonight, but throughout the year in this mission to change the world one book at a time. [applause] i ask you to believe in us, to believe in this foundation, to believe in these books and to support us and to help us turn that belief many -- into action. may the bright spirit of tonight's celebration shine through the days and weeks to come. a may this littture last forever. -- literature last forever. we have so much to celebrate and so much to read. so let's take comfort tonight in each other, and then let's get this party started, and then tomorrow let's get to work. [applause]
>> one more time for lisa lucas, you guys. [cheers and applause] oh, my gosh. man. i don't know about you guys, that woman is my spirit animal. [laughter] about she keeps it -- [inaudible] you know, i have to acknowledge you, lisa. she's thanked me, like, three times, three or four times for this. i thank you.ti i thank you for doing this and for inviting me here. i'm honored to be here, you guys. books -- really. [applause] it's true. i am honored to be here. let me tell you something, i always joke about how i also act and i write and direct, produce, i do a lot of different thing, but i always, i put things in categories. actors are the babies, directors are the prima donnas, and i've always said writers are the smartest people in the room. especially in television, trust me in that. [laughter]r] even if it doesn't seem like it
on screen, trust me. but i also believe that great writing does not just require smart or intelligence. it requires you to be an athlete of the heart.t and we need our athletes now more than ever, and we need to raise the game now more than ever. and i just want to acknowledge all of the athletes in this room and the job that you're doing, so thank you. [applause] yes. that's what i'm talking about. [applause] okay, now -- and, of course, all of this starts with young people and getting young people involved in reading. and to present the national book award in young people's literature is katherine patterson. katherine is the author of more than 30 books including 16 novels for children and young people, and she has twice won the newberry medal for brim to ter birth ya in 1978 and jacob have i loved in 981.
[applause] very good. the master puppeteer won the national book award in 1977 anda the great gillie hopkins won the national book award in 1979 andd was a newberry-honored book. she received the hans christian anderson award in 1998, and in 2000 was named a living legend by the library of congress. it gives me great pleasure to introduce katherine paterson. [applause] ♪ ♪ >> thank you. one feels like one should say larry, but i don't know. and thank you, lisa, and your wonderful staff for this great celebration. it's my privilege to present our --
>> it's at a brother's height right now. [laughter] >> it's my privilege -- thank you, larry. it's my privilege to present ouo panel of judges for young people's literature. will alexander -- [applause]u valley lewis -- valerie lewis, ellen oh. no chair could have asked for a more wise, hard working and at the same time congenial crew. and i thank you all from the bottom of my heart. the good news was that this was a good year for young people's books. the bad news was that this was a good year for young people's books. [laughter] our choices were painful ones. far too many truly deserving books had to be left behind as we came together for a long list and then to the final list that
we are honoring tonight. our deliberations considered four distinct categories of excellence. how does the book appeal to the head and the intelligence and craft of its construction. how does it appeal to the heart in the richness and honesty of its emotional evocation. how does it appeal to the ear in the quality of its voice. and finally, how does it appeal or -- how does it contribute to the vast conversation that ises literature written for children and young adults? in other words, is this a bookk not only for our time, but a book that will stand the test of the years? we believe that we have chosen
those books. and now it is with admiration for the strength, the beauty and the timely and timeless truth of their accomplishments that we applaud their creators. kate can be -- kate k for nightingale disease john lewis, andrew eaton, andrew powell for march book three. [applause] idw publishing. grace lynn for when the sea turned to ill very -- silver.ac [applause]
little brown books for young readers, hachette book group. jason reynolds for ghost -- [cheers and applause] books for young readers, simon & schuster. nicola, the sun is also a a star. [applause] dela court press, penguin random house. random and the 2016 national book award for young people's literature goes to john lewis -- [cheers and applause] march 3. [applause]
[cheers and applause] >> thank you. thank you. thank you. this is unreal. this is unbelievable. some of you know i grew up in rural alabama, very, very poor, very few books in our home, and i remember in 1956 when i was 16 years old, some of my brothers and sisters be cousins going down to the public library, trying to get library cards. and we were told that the libraries were for whites only and not for coloreds. and to come here, receive this award, this honor with these -- it's too much! [cheers and applause] thank you.
but i had a wonderful teacher in elementary school who told me read, my child, read. and i tried to read everything. i love books. thank you, andrew. thank you, nate, and thank each and every one of you. and thank all the judges, thank you national book foundation. thank you so much.h. [applause] >> this was an incredibly intense group effort, i couldn't have done it -- we couldn't have done this alone. thank you to all of us as friends, as collaborators. thank you, lee walton, the engine that drove "march." thank you, chris raz. happy birthday, chris, chrisank ross.
thank everybody, at idw, my amazing wife whose sacrifices made my yenned of the deal attainable, my children and their generation who will inherit this earth. and a message -- a challenge to our incoming president. i challenge you to take this trilogy into your tiny hands and allow your tiny heart to bent transformed by it. [laughter] none of us are alone in this, not even you. [cheers and applause] >> i pitched this idea to the congressman when i was 24 years old. i i didn't know any better. know [laughter] when i was a kid, we didn't have money more books, so we would go to the library. it also happened to be the only
place that had air-conditioning and that we could use in georgia. i was raised by a single mom, and she couldn't be here tonight, but she made me promise i would sit here and watch this with her at christmas. so merry christmas, mama. [laughter] we did it. [cheers and applause] i want to thank chris for saying yes when i pitched him over the table at a comic book convention. [laughter]r] i want to thank all the publishers who said no. [laughter] i want to thank john lewis for saying yes. [cheers and applause] there are two important lessons from this. one is this is a story of the movementing and it must be
told -- movement, and it must be told. it must be told to every child, young and old.d we all must know it if we are t. understand the politics of today. and two, let the prejudice against comic books be buried once and for all. [cheers and applause] thank you so to everyone. thank you to lee walton. what'd we just say -- leah, his wife, you can have him back now. [laughter] and let me thank one more time my mom, because there was no math that would say i should be here. there's no math that would say i should have this award. there's no math that says i should work with john lewis, that i should be able to serves in congress, that you could be able to grow up the son of a muslim immigrant you did not know whose name you carry, despite that.
mama, you persevered. you got me through it. and, by god, we made the best of it. thank you.ou [cheers and applause] >> wow. john lewis, everybody. [cheers and applause] wow. wow. [applause] i mean, to me, it makes sense. it makes sense that he's in comic book form, because he's like a real superhero, right? [cheers and applause]an and little did his arch enemies
know that racism just made himdt stronger. only made him stronger. that is a national hero. thank you, john. now, to present the national book award for poetry is joy harjo. [applause] yes. joy harjo's an acclaimed poet, musician, writer and performer, and her books include conflict resolution for holy beings and her memoir, the crazy brave be, won the penn literary award for creative nonfiction. she's a guggenheim fellow, and she's at work on a music and a second memoir. a second memoir, that's amazing. [laughter] she holds a chair of excellence in creative writing at the university of tennessee tennessee-knoxville, so it gives me great pleasure to introduce joy harjo. [applause] j ♪
♪ >> what a celebration. joy is here. [laughter] first, i wish to introduce the circle of judges for this year's national book award many poetry -- in poetry, an incredible group of judges, and they include mark bivens, jericho brown -- [applause] katie ford and at least therese swenson. [applause] we makers of stories, poems and readers of literature all need each other as we navigate the brokennen heart of this country. poetry is truth-telling, the concise art of conscience and
the word imagining of history and prophesy. we absolutely need poetry as we move forward from last tuesday. poetry carries the spirit of the people and is necessary at the doorways of transformation. this award acknowledges the accomplishments of american poets who sing and speech us through to the other side. for six months we have read, reread, discussed books, poems, words and what matters and what continues to matter in thehe making of poetry. we have read nearly 300 books of poetry together. we found incredible poetry and some, and these incredible, deserving finalists. the five finalists for the national book awards in poetry are the performance of being
♪ ♪ >> wow, thank you judges, thank you national book foundation. what an honor to share the stage with john lewis as well. [applause] >> i need to give the first thank you to my parents that are here tonight. [applause] >> who always filled our house with books and to never question my choice to be a writer as impractical as impoverished as it might end up being. my 9-year-old lorenzo was more worried. lorenzo i love you and i
wouldn't have made the book without you. when i walked in this evening the very nice person that greeted me at the door, i introduced myself and i said, yours is the book that was published in an apartment andd this was set with greattment enthusiasm and that apartment belonged to joe and wendy of arts press. [cheers and applause] >> who have been the most incredible publishers and once found out it was nominated has been so supportive. i want to thank linda sylvia johnson who worked on design and sam hall at brooklyn arts press who i am missing. my formation as a writer has been among people who make books
in their apartments. many of whom have been publishing me for years and it has been one gift after another. so i want to acknowledge those people who labor in the small press world which is where i have very much come from and others who have published my work as writer and in translation, i want to acknowledge and thank steven. [cheers and applause] >> patrick, my friends in chicago, devin king, and many, many others who i am not going mention but who have made the literary world so much better. finally the performance of becoming human comes out of the idea that literature and poetry in particular can serve as aoety
means of producing social andans historical memory and at this moment as many people in this room are very concerned about what the future is going to bring. i too am incredibly concerned about that performance of thinking about. many types of abuse both state violence, economic, exploitation, the experience of migrants and exiles and immigrants and i'm particularly concerned about the fate of undocumented people in this country. so i want to ask -- [cheers and applause] >> so i would simply conclude by asking that we all do our part to make sure that this country remains safe and welcoming to undocumented people, immigrants and speakers of many languages, thank you.
[cheers and applause] >> all right. okay. we are about half way through the night. just a little joke. just a little joke. [laughter] >> you're like, wait, what? the national book award for nonfiction will be presented by masha gesen. there you go. [cheers and applause] >> a russian american journalist and author of nine books, road to american tragedy and the national best seller the man without a face, unlikely rise of vladimir putin. she's a contributing opinion writer to the new york times and frequent contributor to newyo yorker and millennial fellow or just -- okay.
this will be weird, millennial fellow. he's actually nine year's old. kind of wired. she's done a lot. [laughter]r] >> a long time resident of moscow. maybe that's just how they do it in russia, that's how good the vodka is. great pleasure to introduce marcia gesen. [music] >> yes, it is millennial and the vodka was very helpful in making this decision. [laughter] >> you already know that it was a lot of books, you already know that the choice was excrutchuatingly hard. such a lot of books and also great important books.
i was impressed on how many books on history we had to read and striking memoirs and i realize at wasn't point that i was think if my 15-year-old who is actually here today because she had the job of alpha battizing all the books and resorting them, if she read nothing about the books that were nominated for the publishers of nonfiction award this year, she would be a well-educated person this year. i want to thank the judges whom i will miss greatly. [cheers and applause] >> thank you, yes. when we produced our long list and short list, it seemed like a very heavy list.
it was physically very heavy.cav [laughter] >> it was, if you saw the stacks of -- in different nominations, ours was definitely the highest stack. it was a very heavy lift and it's a great list and somehow over the last week it's a list that's begun to feel ever more timely and ever more urgent and urgency was one of the criteria that emerged in our conversations. not just urgency in the subject matter but an urgency with which we want to ask people which we read the books because they will change or affect the way that you see this country and the way that you think by some of the most important issues today. so the finalists are russell for strangers in their own land froe the new press.
[cheers and applause] >> stabbed from the beginning from nation books. nothing ever dies from harvard university press.pplause] [applause] >> the other slavery. and heather anne thompson for blood in the water. [applause] >> and it is a great honor to give this award to ibram for nothing ever dies. ♪
[cheers and applause] >> i have prepared remarks but i don't know how i'm going to open this up with these in my hand but give me a second.. of course, i would like to thank the judges, i would like to thank the national book foundation, i would like tond thank all of the cofinallists. i would like to thank my family who is here, my mother carl rogers and my father larry rogers. [cheers and applause] i would like to thank my brother who represents the beauty of humanity. also here is my father-in-law, i would like to thank him, actually this book came out of a conversation that we had.
of course, i would like to thank my wife who spent many days listening to early drafts and would always encouraging me and has really encouraged me to this point and it's just been my biggest advocate, i'm trulynk thankful to be a partner in life. [applause] of course, i would like to thank nation books. [applause] >> of course, with challenging power, one book at a time.k i would like to think my editor katie who, of course, we've spent many hours talking about, you know, she, of course, believed in my work.
i would like to thank clye from the beginning believing in me that i could produce this history of racist ideas.s. i would like to thank my agent aisha. [cheers and applause] >> i think when aisha and i first met i was 29, 30 year's old, she believed that i could produce this. this 29-year-old. i, of course, would like to thank the newest edition to my family, some of you have seen her tonight. it's my 6-month-old daughter. [cheers and applause] >> and she truly is the best award that i've received all year.is no offense to the national book.
[laughter] >> and her name, we named her imani and imani means faith. faith, her name, of course, has a new meaning for us as the first black president is set to leave the white house and a man who was endorsed by the ku kluz klan is about to enter. faith, i just want to let everyone know that i spent years looking at the absolute worst of america. it's horrific history of racism but in the end, i never lost faith. the terror of racism, i never lost faith at the terror of
racism would one day end. for every killer of the mind there was a life safer of the mind. in the midst of human ugliness of racism, there was the human beauty, there is the human beauty in the resistence to t racism. that is why i have faith. r and i will never lose my faith that you and i can create an antiracist america where racial disparities are not existent, where americans are no longer manipulated by racist ideas, where black lives matter. [applause]
>> and so i want to thank imani 's faith for that. i want to thank all of those in history, all those people acrose the nation who are learning to be antiracist, who have dedicated their lives to antiracist work, you are my rock of faith, you are the nation's rock of faith and i dedicate my award to all of you, thank you. [applause] >> man, let me tell you
something, national book foundation is woke. [laughter] that was very nice, shot out to the baby and the wife, black lives matter, you guys, you have to do that. [laughter] >> absolutely. you can find out the hard way.ya [laughter] >> or the easy way. all right to present the national book award for fiction is james english. [applause] >> james english is a professor of english at the university of pennsylvania where he directs the humanities farm and the price lab for digital humanities. his book includes the global future of english studies and the economy of prestige and the circulation of cultural values, selected as the best academic
book of 2005 by new york magazine. great pleasure to introduce to you james english. [music] >> hi, everyone. wow. what a celebration. what a celebration of the written word. i'm starting to feel good for the first time in eight days. [cheers and applause]fi >> my thanks to lisa and harold and the national book foundation for for giving neglect opportunity to group with -- work with a group of strong and thoughtful readers of fiction. my fellow judges back there at table 60. [cheers and applause] >> two other judges could not be with us, julia, and jamon ward
with a really new baby. a real honor to work with these great, great writers and fun to. judging the national book award requires, if you know, commitment of hundreds of hours as an educator, i've got a day job. so i did what my students call double counting, arranging scenes so that the work is demanded in one domain, fulfilled something required in another. i'm teaching a course called novel of the year, the focus is -- focuses rather narrowly on the 2016 national book award foh fiction. the students in this class have read all the short-listed books.
they've studied their authors, they've studied agents, editors, publishing housing, all you alls [laughter] >> they're really learning about the ways that you work to support literary fiction in difficult times. it's been a fun class. students have formed juries and decided their own winners. david tempted to predict the outcome here tonight and evenco applied to computer program, model to try to predict the winner and this model developed in canada and apparently worked with canadian prizes. here not so much. [laughter] there has been more strenuous disagreement in the classroom than among official judges, karen, julie and i have found myself in strikingly close accord throughout the process.
we wheedled down the 400 booksss to arrive at a place of no compromise where everyone of us five judges loves every one of the five finalists. they are chris, the throwback special. [cheers and applause] >> paulette, news of the world. [cheers and applause] >> karan mahajan, the association of small bombs. viking. [cheers and applause] >> colson white head the underground railroad. [cheers and applause] >> and jacqueline woodson, another book. [cheers and applause]
>> greatly from one another in matter, and effect, each of this is in chosen mode a work of narrative art. taking together they attest to both the range and the vitality of contemporary american fiction. the other judges and i remained in accord even when earlier today using skype, julian, we made the difficult selection from these five extraordinary books.di a work that impressed us with its complex and bracing ethics, it's formal inventiveness, it'sg use of fiction to illuminate the nation's troubled history for the sake of its trouble present, our novel of the year, winner of 2016 national book award for fiction is the underground railroad. [cheers and applause]
it's like the make a wish foundation. am i dying or something. it was nice to me. i only get it so it's confusing. i guess my model for acceptance speeches is the oscars, first one i saw was 77 where star wars was put against annie hall, i was really crushed and i never thought that i would become a writer and actually be at one of these things, so it's all realla neat. i've been with doubleday for 18 years. i was going to say like who gets the same for 18 years and robert pulls the whole thing. [laughter] >> well done, sir.
my first book was intuitionist. [cheers and applause] >> the weird job of translating my sensibility to readers and book sellers and critics and so i would like to thank allison rich. michael goldsmith. susan mayers, lauren for translating my weirdness to a larger world. i wrote a book 20 years ago and then i had an agent and she dumped me and i talked to jina coleman who said you should talk to nicole. [cheers and applause]
>> i will send to her and she picked out of garbage and made me human halfway. thank you, nicole. [cheers and applause] >> and then i started working with bill thomas. >> over the years i had ideas for books. bill, i'm not sure if it's like a zombie book. black hawk down. he's like just write it and we will do it and that's always been the case. he's like we are going to get it out there and publish it incredibly no matter where it is and i just remember handing the
book to him, pages last summer and he was like, very excited and i was, like, i don't want to mess up the next pages. i don't want to fuck it up. thank you for all of your faith over the years. it's meant a lot. you know, to write yourself out there and have someone in your corner like bill. it's a really rare thing.ve so thank you, sir.nk you s [applause] >> my daughter mattie is at home watching on screen, i think. nati, you're 12 year's old. i really started living the day you were born. thank you for your ongoing gift to my life. [applause] >> beckett is 3.
it's so much fun watching with you and you have all the ideas about things. i'm excited and then my book is dedicated to my wife julie. [cheers and applause] >> it's okay writing good books when you're unhappy. it's better writing better books when you're happy so thank you,y love. oprah winfrey. got the word out and usually people read my copy, i don't know. and then oprah is like read it
and people do and it's all crazy. so, yes, this time last year i was finishing up a book. 19 pages ago, don't mez it up colson. you never know what's going to happen in a year and now the book is out and i would never think i would be standing here and who knows where we are going to be a year from now. we are happy in here. outside is the hell-hole wasteland of trumpland which we are going to inhabit but who knows what's going to happen a year from now. people say you have words about the election, not really, i'm sort of stunned. and something that was making me feel better and i guess it was, i think, hopefully other folks, be kind to everybody, make art
and fight the power. that seemed like a good formula for me anyway.that see [applause] >> so bmf and if you have trouble remembering that, a good device to tell yourself is they can't break me because i'm a bad mother fucker, thank you. [cheers and applause] >> wow. very nice. yes. well done. all right. well, thank you, guys.
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