Ta-Nehisi Coates: Multiple honors

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is having a stellar year after the publication of Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House, 2015).

Visit these links to read each section:
Kirkus Prize, Winner
MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Winner
National Book Award for Nonfiction, Finalist

Kirkus Prize

Coates was honored with the Kirkus Prize in nonfiction at a ceremony in Austin, TX on October 15, 2015. This year’s judges praised Between the World and Me as “a formidable literary achievement and a crucial, urgent, and nuanced contribution to a long-overdue national conversation.”

Now in its second year, the Kirkus Prize honors writers who have received a starred review from the literary journal Kirkus Reviews. It is one of the richest literary awards in the world, awarding $50,000 to the writers in each literary category — nonfiction, fiction and young readers’ literature. The panel is composed of nationally respected writers and highly regarded booksellers, librarians and Kirkus critics.

Coates’ fellow honorees were Hanya Yanagihara (fiction) and Pam Muñoz (young readers’ literature). Their works were selected from a pool of 1,032 eligible books.


2015 MacArthur “Genius” Grant

Coates received a 2015 MacArthur “Genius” Grant for his journalism, which interprets “complex and challenging issues around race and racism through the lens of personal experience and nuanced historical analysis.”

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. The fellows are nominated then selected on three criteria: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

Coates joins 24 other MacArthur Fellows this year, among them MIT economist Heidi Williams. The fellows were chosen for “shedding light and making progress on critical issues, pushing the boundaries of their fields, and improving our world in imaginative, unexpected ways,” according to MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “Their work, their commitment, and their creativity inspire us all.”



MacArthur Foundation Video



National Book Award for Nonfiction

On October 14, 2015, the National Book Foundation announced Coates’ Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House) as one of five finalists for the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction by the National Book Foundation.

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 in each category will be announced at the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City on November 18, 2015.

The 2015 Judges for nonfiction are 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)



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.