Congratulations to the 2019 National Book Award Winners

Two months ago I woke up early on a Sunday of all days—and by early I mean before even my four-year-old child—to make sure I got a train into Brooklyn in time to see Susan Choi’s panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival. I insisted on seeing Choi because her book Trust Exercise is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and it’s so enigmatic that I felt like seeing her speak would connect me even more to a book that challenged many notions of straight-forward storytelling. Trust Exercise spins a tale of teenagers at a performing arts high school in the 1980s, peering into their adolescence as they flower under the tutelage of a charismatic and manipulative theater teacher. It's set in the past, but undeniably comments on today's world. Halfway through the book, directly after finishing the first part, the narrative swerves into territory that may leave you breathless and cackling (like me) or throwing the book across the room (like many, many people I’ve talked to—some didn’t even get that far).


All that said, last night Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise won the coveted National Book Award for Fiction and I couldn’t be more delighted. I think a lot of people are going to pick up the book now and they will NOT be ready. I can’t wait to witness it.



Choi beat out the excellent short story collection Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, the epic fantasy of Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James, the literary mystery of The Other Americans by Laila Lalami, and Russian-set Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips.


See the the list of winners and finalists below. Have you read any? Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to have an in-depth discussion about Trust Exercise, something I’ve been doing with other readers as they've finished (but also with those who could not bring themselves to finish!).


Fiction


Susan Choi, Trust Exercise

Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Sabrina & Corina: Stories

Marlon James, Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Laila Lalami, The Other Americans

Julia Phillips, Disappearing Earth


Nonfiction


Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Thick: And Other Essays

Carolyn Forché, What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance

David Treuer, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present

Albert Woodfox with Leslie George, Solitary


Poetry


Jericho Brown, The Tradition

Toi Derricotte, "I": New and Selected Poems

Ilya Kaminsky, Deaf Republic

Carmen Giménez Smith, Be Recorder

Arthur Sze, Sight Lines


Translated literature


Khaled Khalifa, Death Is Hard Work

Translated from Arabic by Leri Price


László Krasznahorkai, Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming

Translated from Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet


Scholastique Mukasonga, The Barefoot Woman

Translated from French by Jordan Stump


Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police

Translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder


Pajtim Statovci, Crossing

Translated from Finnish by David Hackston


Young people's literature


Akwaeke Emezi, Pet

Jason Reynolds, Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

Randy Ribay, Patron Saints of Nothing

Laura Ruby, Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

Martin W. Sandler, 1919: The Year That Changed America