We’d like to take a moment to congratulate Northern Irish author Anna Burns, who was awarded the 50th Annual Man Booker Prize on October 16 for her novel Milkman! Burns becomes the first Northern Irish author to win the award, and the first female winner since 2013, when Eleanor Catton took the award with The Luminaries.
Burns drew on her memories of living through The Troubles in Northern Ireland to craft a story about middle sister in an unnamed city as she navigates her way through rumor, social pressures and politics in a tight-knit community. Burns shows the dangerous and complex outcome that can happen to a woman coming of age in a city at war.
None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour. Set in a society divided against itself, Milkman explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life.
Milkman also spoke to the concerns of today, Appiah reflected. as quoted by The Guardian, he noted, “I think this novel will help people think about #MeToo … It is to be commended for giving us a deep and subtle and morally and intellectually challenging picture of what #MeToo is about.”
In addition to her prize money and public recognition, the Royal Mail is issuing a congratulatory postmark featuring the winner’s name, which will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail nationwide for six days from 17 October. It will read ‘Congratulations to Anna Burns, winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize’.
We here at the Free For All would like to add our congratulations to Anna Burns. Milkman will shortly be available in the US, and we cannot wait to get our hands on it!
As we reported here in September, there will be no Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018. Following a series of cover-ups, discrediting disclosures and allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, the board was taking a hiatus. In its place, a New Academy organized to award an Alternative Nobel this year, with input from the public.
Today, we are delighted to announce that Guatemalan author Maryse Condé has been awarded the 2018 Alternative Nobel prize!
The author of some 20 novels, Condé is renown for providing a voice for those who have been silenced by politics, poverty, and history. The chair of judges Ann Pålsson noted of her contribution to literature, “She describes the ravages of colonialism and the post-colonial chaos in a language which is both precise and overwhelming…The dead live in her stories closely to the living in a … world where gender, race and class are constantly turned over in new constellations.”
As reported by The Guardian, Condé said she was “very happy and proud” to win the award. “But please allow me to share it with my family, my friends and above all the people of Guadeloupe, who will be thrilled and touched seeing me receive this prize,” she said. “We are such a small country, only mentioned when there are hurricanes or earthquakes and things like that. Now we are so happy to be recognised for something else.”
Conde will win about £87,000 raised from crowdfunding and donations, and will receive the prize at a ceremony on 9 December, one day before the Nobel banquet.
It is our honor to congratulate Maryse Condé on her award, and thank her for a lifetime of stories, honest, and compassion.
This year’s shortlist recognizes three writers from the UK, two from the US, and one from Canada. There are four women and two men nominated. Moreover, Daisy Johnson, at 27-years-old, is officially the youngest novelist nominated for the award.
At a press conference this morning, the 2018 Chair of judges, Kwame Anthony Appiah, remarked that each of these novels is “a miracle of stylistic invention.” He continued:
In each of them the language takes centre stage. And yet in every other respect they are remarkably diverse, exploring a multitude of subjects ranging across space and time. From Ireland to California, in Barbados and the Arctic, they inhabit worlds that not everyone will have been to, but which we can all be enriched by getting to know. Each one explores the anatomy of pain — among the incarcerated and on a slave plantation, in a society fractured by sectarian violence, and even in the natural world. But there are also in each of them moments of hope. These books speak very much to our moment, but we believe that they will endure.
The winner on the Man Booker Prize will be announced on 16 October at a dinner in London’s Guildhall. Until then, we hope you enjoy perusing this shortlist! Sadly, three of the titles are not yet available to us in the US, but we’ll be bringing you updates when they do!
And, as promised, we all bring you the 2018 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction! The announcement was made about an hour ago, and we are pleased as punch to bring the results to you! As with yesterday’s list, clicking on the author’s name will bring you to their National Book Award author’s page. Clicking on the title will bring you to the library page where you can check on the book’s availability and request it.
The Duke With a Dragon Tattoo:Yes, it’s another Duke-As-Hero historic romance, but Kerrigan Byrne’s stories never follow precedent or trope, so we’re convinced that this story is going to be both delightful and unique! He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul. Lorelai will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms? Byrne’s books are always a topic of conversation around here, and Library Journal loved this new addition, describing it as “A hero so lost he fears he’ll never be found and a heroine who won’t give up on him reclaim their love in a bold, lyrical tale that brings the darker side of the Victorian Age into sharp relief; another winner in a stellar series.”
The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves:Eric R. Kandel was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his foundational research into memory storage in the brain, and his book thus draws on a lifetime of pathbreaking research and the work of many other leading neuroscientists to take us on an unusual tour of the brain. e confronts one of the most difficult questions we face: How does our mind, our individual sense of self, emerge from the physical matter of the brain? The brain’s 86 billion neurons communicate with one another through very precise connections. But sometimes those connections are disrupted. The brain processes that give rise to our mind can become disordered, resulting in diseases such as autism, depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder. While these disruptions bring great suffering, they can also reveal the mysteries of how the brain produces our most fundamental experiences and capabilities—the very nature of what it means to be human. Studies of autism illuminate the neurological foundations of our social instincts; research into depression offers important insights on emotions and the integrity of the self; and paradigm-shifting work on addiction has led to a new understanding of the relationship between pleasure and willpower. While this book is about the brain as an organ, it’s also about the brain’s role in making us who and what we are, considering the power and role of memory, emotions, and creativity. It’s a work that is both wonderfully readable and deeply intelligent. Publisher’s Weekly agrees, calling it “Highly accessible . . . Kandel’s deep compassion for people is also evident, as when he discusses how understanding the biological basis for mental disorders might take them out of the realm of legal culpability. The result of his work is an easily comprehended, meticulous synthesis of current research into the biological grounding of the human mind.”
Field of Bones:Fan-favorite J.A. Jance has returned with another installment of her stellar series featuring Sheriff Joanna Brady. As we open, Sheriff Brady. This time Sheriff Joanna Brady may expect to see her maternity leave through to completion, but the world has other plans when a serial homicide case surfaces in her beloved Cochise County. Rather than staying home with her newborn and losing herself in the cold cases to be found in her father’s long unread diaries, Joanna instead finds herself overseeing a complex investigation involving multiple jurisdictions. Filled with the kind of characterization and small-town details that make this series such a winner, this eighteenth installment of Jance’s series is being praised by series fans, with Publisher’s Weekly noting “Jance ratchets up the tension …This long-running series shows no signs of losing steam.”
She Would Be King: Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through the eyes and lives of three fascinating characters, whose bonds and whose magic will transform the world around them. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, and build a nation around themselves. This is a powerfully emotive work that gives a voice and meaning to an area of the world seldom explored in fiction. It’s being lauded by crtics and readers alike, as well, with Kirkus Reviews hailing it as “An ambitious, genre-hopping, continent-spanning novel. . . . Moore is a brisk and skilled storyteller who weaves her protagonists’ disparate stories together with aplomb yet is also able to render her sprawling cast of characters in ways that feel psychologically compelling. In addition, the novel’s various settings―Virginia, Jamaica, and West Africa―are depicted so lushly that readers will find themselves enchanted.”
A River of Stars: Another sensational debut novel here, this one from journalist Vanessa Hua. Holed up with other mothers-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. Now she’s carrying his baby. Already married with three daughters, Boss Yeung is overjoyed because the doctors have confirmed that he will finally have the son he has always wanted. To ensure that his child has every advantage, Boss Yeung has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. U.S. citizenship will open doors for their little prince. As Scarlett awaits the baby’s arrival, she chokes down bitter medicinal stews and spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited teenager and fellow unwed mother who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend. Then a new sonogram of Scarlett’s baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she escapes by hijacking a van—only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. The two flee to San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn’t know is that her baby’s father is not far behind her. An unpredictable adventure, a tale of friendship, empathy, and wit, this is also a closely-observed story about Chinese immigrant’s experiences in the US that is as eye-opening as it is entertaining. The USA Today agrees, describing the book in their review: “Vanessa Hua’s story spins with wild fervor, with charming protagonists fiercely motivated by maternal and survival instincts. A River of Stars is a migrant narrative tenderly constructed around Scarlett’s quest to carve a life for her daughter and herself at the risk of deportation.”
Ever the fans of the dramatic, the National Book Awards are drip-feeding us their nominations for the best books of the year. The nominations for Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature have all been announced, and we’re looking forward to bringing you the announcement of the Fiction long list tomorrow, after the announcement is made around 10:00am EST.
The nominations this year reflect the surge of new talent and diverse voices that we have been fortunate enough to enjoy in our reading this year. Among the poetry long list, only one author has previously won (Terrance Hayes; Pulitzer-Prize winner Rae Armantrout was nominated in 2009).
This year also marks the first award for translated literature, a sign that the award itself is hearing the multitude of voices telling stories around us. Not only are the authors themselves telling stories from a range of different locations and in a number of different languages, but seven of the titles were also put out by independent presses, highlighting how publishing itself is changing around us, as well. It’s a heady time to be a reader, beloved patrons, and we are 100% on board for all the fun!
So here, without further ado, are the current National Book Award long lists. We look forward to adding to this list in the coming days, and seeing how the awards program progresses to the final announcement of the National Book Awards on November 14!
A note: If you click the link in the authors’ names, you will be taken to the National Book Award website for that writer. If you are looking to locate the books in our library catalog, please click on the book’s title where a link is available.
In anticipation of the 2018 National Book Award Longlist being announced on September 12, we are happy to bring you our post on the history of the National Book Award! We hope you enjoy!
Just in case the excitement of the Man Booker Award wasn’t enough, I am delighted to tell you that the Bookish Award Season is in full swing, a fact which was emphasized by the announcement of the National Book Award nominees yesterday morning.
While most certainly a prestigious award, and indubitably beneficial to the authors who receive it, the National Book Award as an institution is a bit of an odd duck, in that is seems more concerned with its own identity, rather than the books it celebrates…
The National Book Award was instituted in 1936 by the American Booksellers Association, and open to any book published in that year, worldwide. The award was suspended, however, at the outbreak of the Second World War. When it was re-instituted in 1950 by the ABA, the American Book Publishers Council, and the Book Manufacturers Institute, awards were limited to “works by Americans published here”, perhaps reflecting the rise of the United States on the global stage. Categories were divided, re-united, re-named, and changed continuously up until 1980, when they were dismissed altogether in favor of the “American Book Award”.
The “American Book Award” was intended to run exactly like the Academy Awards, with a big fancy televised party, big-name stars, and some twenty-seven awards being handed out. The whole enterprise cost so much money and was generally so confusing that it only lasted until 1987, before the awards’ organizers were forced to revamp their idea, and return to a handful of awards given out much more quietly. Said the Chairman of the Awards at this time, “Book people are really not actors”. Truer words have never been spoken.
Today, the National Book Awards hands out awards in four categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature, which overall, seems much saner. In an attempt to revamp the awards’ prestige and notoriety, the NBA Foundation hired image consultants in 2012, and while the after-party for the awards is now, apparently The Place To Be, the award itself still seems to be undergoing a very long-term identity crisis.
Under the 1950 rules (which include the line about only “Americans published here” can receive the award), only American publishers can nominate the books (it was only in the past two years that the publishers didn’t get to select the judges, as well). Consequently, unlike most awards, which include a wide-ranging panel of experts and readers (the Booker Prize always has one librarian on it’s panel, I’m just going to point that out), there are some who have claimed that the NBA is the most insular literary award of the year. The foundation claims that it is upholding the standards of American literature.
I can’t help but wonder if instead of asking “who gets to judge American literature”, maybe we should be asking “what, exactly, is American literature?”
And rather than worrying about trying to make the awards flashier, or grander, or handed out by higher-paid celebrities, how about we appreciate the books, the remarkable people who created them, and how much they have to say about who we are, as Americans, as a society, and as people in a world of people:
As we reported here previously, there will be no 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature. A number of wide-ranging allegations going back some twenty years were brought against Jean-Claude Arnault, a photographer who is married to Nobel academy member Katarina Frostenson, which the Academy failed to handle, and refused to address after the story broke, resulting in a large number of panel members refusing to take part in the award. Additionally, suspicions of financial conflicts of interest and the alleged leaking of the names of seven Nobel literature laureates in advance further tarnished the reputation of the Academy and its award.
We mourn for those who have suffered as the result of predatory behavior, and the refusal of those with the power to effect change to step up. In a different way, we also grieve for the loss of a 2018 Nobel Prize Winner, mostly because it allows us a moment to reflect on a life time of literary output and contributions to our worldwide reading society. However, all hope is not lost, in part because Librarians Are Awesome.
As reported by The New York Times, Swedish journalist Alexandra Pascalidou, enraged by the unfolding sex scandal, decided to take matters into her own hands. So she started her own award. Ms. Pascalidou, with the help of over 100 prominent Swedish cultural figures, including actors, novelists and a rapper, founded the New Academy Prize in Literature. The prize will award one million kronor, or around $112,000 to the winning author, and a banquet will be held in their honor, just as is held by the Nobel Prize itself. As stated in the award’s opener, “In a time when human values are increasingly being called into question, literature becomes an even more important counterforce to stop the culture of silence and oppression.”
Online voting for the award, which selected three of the four shortlisted authors, closed on August 14. The final shortlisted author will be chosen by Sweden’s librarians. The rules of awards enforce a gender quota on the shortlist stage, stipulating that it comprises two men and two women. On August 30, the shortlist was announced. We present it below with the short bio offered on the award’s website. Click on the author’s name to get links to the NOBLE catalog and see their work:
Maryse Condé Born 1937 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, Maryse Condé is considered one of the Caribbean’s most outstanding authors. She has written some twenty novels and received several prestigious awards. She has been an Emeritus Professor at Columbia University, New York, but now lives in Guadeloupe and France. In her work, she has described how colonialism has changed the world and how those affected take back their heritage.
Haruki Murakami Born 1949 in Kyoto, Haruki Murakami has lived in the US and currently resides in Tokyo. He is one of our most celebrated authors and translators. His work fuses pop culture with a fierce magic realism. He has received several prestigious international awards and is also mentioned as a Nobel Prize-candidate.
Kim Thúy Born 1968 in Saigon, Vietnam, Kim Thúy left her country as a boat refugee when she was ten years old and grew up in Canada. She is known for her short and elegant stories about being a refugee and an immigrant. Her stories paint the colors of Vietnam and the scents and flavors too, as well as the perils of exile and search for identity.
Neil Gaiman Born 1960 in Portchester, England, Neil Gaiman currently lives in Wisconsin, USA. He is a screen writer, author and editor who started his career as a journalist. His graphic novel Sandman was a huge success only outranked by Superman and Batman in sold copies. He has received several international awards and is a true superstar in the fantasy community.
The only real drawback to this story is the way the media has covered the announcement of the short list. Gaiman and Murakami were mentioned in headlines across the United States and Europe. Twitter erupted with the news of two beloved male authors being nominated. But the female nominees were only listed in secondary and tertiary paragraphs (to be fair, both men called out reporting, as did a sizable online readership). Considering the reason that the award was developed in the first place–as a result of sexual abuse and the sidelining of (largely women) victims’ pain–and by whom–a determined and pioneering woman, it’s really disappointing that the spotlight wasn’t big enough to encompass all four writers equally.
But we are.
…Because librarians are awesome.
"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass