National Book Award winners include UF professor
When the 2016 National Book Awards were handed out on Wednesday night, Florida had a winner.
The award for nonfiction went to University of Florida faculty member Ibram X. Kendi for Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. Kendi, an assistant professor of African American history at UF, structured the book around the history of five leading American intellectuals: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois and Angela Davis. In his acceptance speech, Kendi said, "I spent years looking at the absolute worst of America, but I never lost faith. For every racist idea, there was an antiracist idea."
The awards ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in Manhattan, hosted by comedian Larry Wilmore and attended by about 700 people, took on a decidedly political tone as many presenters and winners reacted to the presidential election results. Jurors selected the winners on Wednesday afternoon, eight days after Donald Trump's election.
Three of the four winning books deal with the history of race in America. Colson Whitehead won the fiction award for The Underground Railroad. His bestselling novel, an Oprah Winfrey book club pick, is the harrowing, surreal story of a teenage slave's escape. He ended his speech with "Be kind, make art and fight the power."
The winning book for young people's literature was March: Book Three, the third volume in a graphic-memoir trilogy co-written by U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a longtime civil rights activist, and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. March: Book Three is the first graphic book ever to win a National Book Award. In a moving speech, Lewis recalled that as a boy in the 1950s in Alabama he was refused a library card, because the cards "were for whites, not for coloreds."
The award for poetry went to Daniel Borzutzky for his collection of dystopian poems, The Performance of Being Human. University of South Florida professor Jay Hopler was a finalist in that category for his book The Abrdged History of Rainfall.
The awards ceremony was livestreamed at the National Book Foundation's website and will be available for viewing there soon. Video of a reading on Tuesday night by many of the 20 finalists is also available at the website.