Here are the finalists for the 2023 National Book Awards
By Elizabeth A. Harris
A dystopian novel about a private, for-profit prison system in which inmates compete for their freedom in death matches that are broadcast live. A history of Native American people and the development of American democracy. And a graphic novel about a Muslim family’s road trip to Disney World.
These books are some of the 25 finalists for this year’s National Book Awards, which were announced last week by the National Book Foundation. The winners will be named Nov. 15.
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah was nominated for “Chain-Gang All-Stars,” the novel about the for-profit prison system. Justin Torres was a finalist for “Blackouts,” which follows a dying man who passes along his research into queer history to someone he met at a psychiatric hospital. Another nominated book, Aaliyah Bilal’s “Temple Folk,” is a debut story collection about the varied experiences of Black Muslims in America.
The finalists for nonfiction include Ned Blackhawk, a history and American studies professor at Yale University, whose book, “The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History,” examines the role of Indigenous people in shaping American democracy. Cristina Rivera Garza, a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation fellowship colloquially known as the “genius” grant, was named a finalist for “Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice,” which examines the murder of her 20-year-old sister in 1990 and femicide — the killing of women and girls because of their gender — more broadly.
In the poetry collection “From From,” finalist Monica Youn uses poems and personal essays to examine American racism and anti-Asian violence; the title is a reference to the question, “Where are you from from?” The poems in “How to Communicate” by John Lee Clark, another finalist, were influenced by Braille and translated from American Sign Language and Protactile, a language based on touch.
In the translated literature category, finalists include Bora Chung, whose story collection, “Cursed Bunny,” translated from Korean by Anton Hur, looks at capitalism, the patriarchy and the female condition. Stênio Gardel was nominated for “The Words That Remain,” a debut novel translated from Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato.
“Huda F Cares?” by Huda Fahmy was nominated in the young people’s literature category; the book follows a Muslim family on a road trip to Disney World. Dan Santat’s graphic memoir “A First Time for Everything,” which looks at awkward middle school experiences, was also a finalist.
Five of the finalists have been recognized by the National Book Foundation before. Adjei-Brenyah, the author of “Chain-Gang All-Stars,” and Torres, who wrote “Blackouts,” were both “5 Under 35” honorees in years past. Lisa Dillman and Pilar Quintana were finalists for translated literature in 2020. And Youn was a finalist for poetry in 2010 and on the longlist for poetry in 2016.
Here is a complete list of the finalists, in five categories.
— Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, “Chain-Gang All-Stars”
— Aaliyah Bilal, “Temple Folk”
— Paul Harding, “This Other Eden”
— Hanna Pylväinen, “The End of Drum-Time”
— Justin Torres, “Blackouts”
— Ned Blackhawk, “The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History”
— Cristina Rivera Garza, “Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice”
— Christina Sharpe, “Ordinary Notes”
— Raja Shehadeh, “We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir”
— John Vaillant, “Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World”
— John Lee Clark, “How to Communicate”
— Craig Santos Perez, “from unincorporated territory [åmot]”
— Evie Shockley, “suddenly we”
— Brandon Som, “Tripas”
— Monica Youn, “From From”
— Bora Chung, “Cursed Bunny”
Translated from Korean by Anton Hur
— David Diop, “Beyond the Door of No Return”
Translated from French by Sam Taylor
— Stênio Gardel, “The Words That Remain”
Translated from Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato
— Pilar Quintana, “Abyss”
Translated from Spanish by Lisa Dillman
— Astrid Roemer, “On a Woman’s Madness”
Translated from Dutch by Lucy Scott
Young People’s Literature
— Kenneth M. Cadow, “Gather”
— Huda Fahmy, “Huda F Cares?”
— Vashti Harrison, “Big”
— Katherine Marsh, “The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine”
— Dan Santat, “A First Time for Everything”