Ta-Nehisi Coates: National Book Award Winner

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Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House) took home the 2015 National Book Award in Nonfiction.

Established in 1950, the National Book Award is an American literary prize administered by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. Winners of the 66th National Book Award were announced at a lavish ceremony and benefit dinner at Cipriani’s in New York City on November 18. Winners in each category received a bronze sculpture and a purse of $10,000.

Coates’ other honors this year include the Kirkus Prize and the MacArthur “Genius” Grant. “Given the kind of year that Ta-Nehisi Coates has been having, it would be tough to consider his Between the World and Me anything less than a favorite to win the nonfiction prize,” says the National Book Foundation.

The 2015 Judges for nonfiction were Diane Ackerman, Patricia Hill Collins, John D’Agata, Paul Holdengräber, and Adrienne Mayor. All five writers appeared as National Book Awards Nonfiction finalists for the first time:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House)
Sally Mann, Hold Still (Little, Brown/Hachette Book Group)
Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus (Atria/Simon & Schuster)
Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran (Henry Holt and Company)
Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light (Alfred A. Knopf)

Coates is now in the company of a pantheon of writers that includes: William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, John Cheever, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, John Updike, Katherine Anne Porter, Norman Mailer, Elizabeth Bishop, Saul Bellow, Donald Barthelme, Flannery O’Connor, Adrienne Rich, Thomas Pynchon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, E. Annie Proulx, Alice Walker, and Charles Johnson.



2015 NBA Non-Fiction Award Winner: Ta-Nehisi Coates (Full Speech)



In the one hundred fifty years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: It is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war, and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up, and killed in our streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all—regardless of race—honestly reckon with our country’s fraught racial history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer those questions, presented in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his own awakening to the truth about history and race through a series of revelatory experiences: immersion in nationalist mythology as a child; engagement with history, poetry, and love at Howard University; travels to Civil War battlefields and the South Side of Chicago; a journey to France that reorients his sense of the world; and pilgrimages to the homes of mothers whose children’s lives have been taken as American plunder. Taken together, these stories map a winding path toward a kind of liberation—a journey from fear and confusion to a full and honest understanding of the world as it is. Masterfully woven from lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me offers a powerful new framework for understanding America’s history and current crisis, and a transcendent vision for a way forward.