Saturday, November 18, 2017
Books

National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer, author of 'Endangered,' has Tampa Bay ties

RECOMMENDED READING


Eliot Schrefer now knows how it feels to be a finalist for a National Book Award.

"It's pure giddiness here," he said, "like I've had 10 cups of coffee, when actually I've had zero."

Schrefer, who lives in Manhattan, is a 1997 graduate of Countryside High School. His sixth book and fifth novel, Endangered, was named one of five finalists for the 2012 National Book Award for young people's literature in an announcement Wednesday morning.

Schrefer, 33, will be in St. Petersburg to talk about Endangered at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 20 (festivalofreading.com).

His mother, Barbara Schrefer, still lives in Countryside. "I called her this morning," he said. "You know how when you hear something big, you fixate on details? She just wanted to know how to watch the video" of the announcement, made on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

Endangered is a labor of love, Schrefer says. The novel tells the story of teenage Sophie, whose parents are divorced. Her mother runs a sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo for bonobos. They are great apes that are similar in appearance to chimpanzees but very different in behavior, living in largely peaceful matriarchal groups; some scientists believe they may be humans' closest relatives.

When Sophie arrives from the United States in Kinshasa, Congo's capital, for a visit, she unexpectedly acquires an orphaned bonobo infant — and then she finds herself fighting for her survival and the ape's as the brutal wars that have plagued Congo for decades get too close for comfort.

"I absolutely fell in love with bonobos," Shrefer says. "I had an interest in conservation as a child that I kind of let slip. Now I'm just so inspired by them."

It was a real switch in subject matter from his previous novels, which are peopled mostly with privileged American teenagers. His first novel, Glamorous Disasters, was based on his experiences as an SAT tutor in Manhattan after he graduated from Harvard.

He also wrote a nonfiction book, Hack the SAT, and, he says, "I still do one-on-one SAT tutoring in Manhattan. It's a great side lifestyle for a writer. I don't need to make my rent with the next book, and I'm exposed to teenagers, which is who I write about."

Schrefer says he plans to attend the National Book Foundation's awards ceremony in New York on Nov. 14. "I have to buy a tuxedo." He'll be in well-known company — other finalists this year include Junot Diaz, Dave Eggers, Louise Erdrich, Katherine Boo and Robert Caro.

Finalists receive $1,000, and the winner in each category (fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature) receives $10,000.

But for Schrefer, the recognition has a purpose beyond himself. "What happened to this book was much more important to me than a simple career thing," he says. "I'm kind of a missionary about it. I may have too much zeal."

Colette Bancroft can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435.

Comments
Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

New York, it seems, doesn't have a monopoly on pizza-chomping rodents.Around 2:45 p.m. Friday, the Tampa Bay Times spotted a squirrel digging a nearly entire slice of pizza out of a trash can at 146 Second St. N in St. Petersburg. The squirrel hoppe...
Published: 11/17/17
Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

WINNERS:Taylor SwiftFollowing the death of his mother, Gloria, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon shared a touching story with the audience about his mom squeezing his hand three times and saying "I love you," when he was a kid. "Last week, I was in ...
Published: 11/17/17
Review: ‘Marvel’s Runaways’ pits rebellious teens against their evil parents

Review: ‘Marvel’s Runaways’ pits rebellious teens against their evil parents

The parents in Runaways really are the worst.Hulu's new Marvel series follows a ragtag group of teenagers who have to band together to defeat their own parents, who are collective members of a secret criminal organization called the Pride.In the wake...
Published: 11/17/17
What to watch this weekend: ‘The Punisher,’ ‘Search Party,’ Elizabeth Smart Lifetime movie

What to watch this weekend: ‘The Punisher,’ ‘Search Party,’ Elizabeth Smart Lifetime movie

GRIEF AND GUNS: THE PUNISHERMarvel fans first saw Marine veteran Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) in Netflix's Daredevil series. The brutish anti-hero finally gets his own series with The Punisher, exploring what he did after helping Daredevil (Charlie Co...
Published: 11/17/17
Jesmyn Ward wins National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward wins National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward is having a good year.At a glamorous ceremony Wednesday night in New York, Ward was named the winner of the 2017 National Book Award for Sing, Unburied, Sing, about a Mississippi family's epic road trip. The book is Ward's third novel ...
Published: 11/16/17
Review: George Saunders’ ‘Sea Oak’ makes a dead-funny TV comedy

Review: George Saunders’ ‘Sea Oak’ makes a dead-funny TV comedy

Recently, George Saunders won the Man Booker Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards.And now he has a TV show about zombies!Saunders, one of America’s best writers of fiction, won the 2017 Booker for his splendid novel Lincoln in t...
Published: 11/16/17

Events: Tampa historians to sign books at hurricane relief benefit

Book TalkNancy Christie (Rut-Busting Book for Writers) will sign her book at 11 a.m. Nov. 20 at 321 Books, 6901 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg.John Cinchett (Vintage Tampa Storefronts and Scenes), Rex Gordon (History of Hillsborough High School), Linda ...
Published: 11/16/17
What’s Elaine M. Hayes reading?

What’s Elaine M. Hayes reading?

NightstandElaine M. HayesHayes, the author of Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan, said she was a college student when Vaughan’s voice first captivated her. "My roommate played a lot of her in our daily life. I remember thinking that s...
Published: 11/16/17
Your heart can go on when ‘Titanic’ returns to theaters

Your heart can go on when ‘Titanic’ returns to theaters

It's the holiday season, so why not capitalize on a beloved film by bringing it back to theaters for a limited engagement?That's what Dolby Laboratories, Paramount Pictures and AMC Theaters are doing, announcing that a remastered version of Titanic w...
Published: 11/15/17
Review: ‘The Punisher’ packs a punch tackling grief and revenge

Review: ‘The Punisher’ packs a punch tackling grief and revenge

If Frank Castle sees someone committing an act of evil, he has no problem ending them.Castle (Jon Bernthal) is The Punisher in Netflix's new Marvel series, spun off from another popular superhero series, Daredevil. The Punisher follows the former mar...
Published: 11/14/17