When the 2012 National Book Awards are handed out on Wednesday night, the Tampa Bay area will have a former local resident to root for.
Eliot Schrefer, who graduated from Countryside High School in 1997 before going on to Harvard and a successful career as a YA novelist, is one of five finalists in the category of young people's literature for his compelling novel Endangered. The book was inspired, he says, by a visit to a sanctuary for bonobos, a chimpanzeelike primate, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "It really opened my eyes. I simply fell in love with bonobos."
His plan, he says, is for Endangered to be the first of a trilogy of novels about great apes, each set in the context of the political situations that threaten their habitats. Schrefer, 33, who lives in New York City, will be attending the National Book Awards ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street.
Kevin Powers' The Yellow Birds, a finalist in the fiction category, is reviewed today on 7L. Winners, who receive a $10,000 prize, will be posted Wednesday night at nationalbook.org.
The National Book Foundation, which gives the awards annually, has announced that its 2012 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters will go to novelist Elmore Leonard, and its Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community to Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., chairman and publisher of the New York Times.
Finalists for the 2012 National Book Awards are:
Fiction: This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz; A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers; The Round House, Louise Erdrich; Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain; The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers
Nonfiction: Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956, Anne Applebaum; Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo; The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro; The Boy Kings of Texas, Domingo Martinez; House of Stone, Anthony Shadid
Poetry: Bewilderment, David Ferry; Heavenly Bodies, Cynthia Huntington; Fast Animal, Tim Seibles; Night of the Republic, Alan Shapiro; Meme, Susan Wheeler
Young people's literature: Goblin Secrets, William Alexander; Out of Reach, Carrie Arcos; Never Fall Down, Patricia McCormick; Endangered, Eliot Schrefer; Bomb, Steve Sheinkin.
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In other news of Tampa Bay area authors winning recognition, Publishers Weekly's lists of Best Books of 2012 are out. Karen Brown (Little Sinners) is on the fiction list, and Michael Connelly (The Black Box) and Dennis Lehane (Live by Night) are on the mystery list.