Cover Find out who are the winners of the National Book 2021 (Art: Chesca Gamboa/Tatler Hong Kong)

The five winners of the five categories—fiction, non-fiction, poetry, translated literature and young people’s literature—has been announced. Read to find out who they are

One of the most prestigious awards in literature, the National Book Awards has announced its winners in five categories: non-fiction, fiction, translated literature, poetry and young people’s literature.

Each year, 25 judges (five per category)—nominated by former winners and finalists—will be reading through the submissions in search of the notable standouts. The winners were announced in a live ceremony due to the pandemic. Read on to find out who the winners are.

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  • Hell of a Book by Jason Mott

Jury comment: With audacity and invention, Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book weaves together three narrative strands—an unnamed author, a boy named Soot, and a figure known as The Kid—into a masterful novel. In a structurally and conceptually daring examination of art, fame, family and being Black in America, Mott somehow manages the impossible trick of being playful, insightful and deeply moving, all at the same time. A highly original, inspired work that breaks new ground.


  • All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles

Jury comment: A brilliant, original work, All That She Carried presents a Black woman’s counter compilation of lives that ordinary archives suppress. Tiya Mile’s graceful prose gives us narrative history, social history, and object history of women’s craft the things Rose gave the daughter she was losing forever. With depth and breadth, Miles offers the visual record of love in the face of the child trafficking atrocities of slavery. The book is scholarship at its best and most heartrending.

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  • Floaters by Martín Espada

Jury comment: Martín Espada’s Floaters manages to address the concerns of our times through a timeless voice that can be heard above "this cacophonous world." These poems remind us of the power of observation, of seeing everything—what’s in front of us, what’s behind us, both in memory and in heritage, and what we can only imagine—believing all are worthy of song, all are worthy of taking seriously within our song. This is a collection that is vital for our times and will be vital for those in the future, trying to make sense of today.

Translated Literature

  • Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins

Jury’s comment: This sparse and visceral novel evokes the atmosphere of abandonment and isolation as well as the stark beauty of winter in a provincial South Korean seaside resort town near the North Korean border. Narrated by a sharply observant young French Korean resident, the story explores rifts of identity—personal, cultural and national—and the fleeting kinship that is possible between solitary strangers. Aneesa Abbas Higgins’ elegant translation brings out the lyricism of Elisa Shua Dusapin’s tender and mysterious novel.

Young People’s Literature

  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Jury comment: Last at the Telegraph Club glows with desire and hums with sensuality as sapphic romance flashes against fear and intolerance. In lustrous detail, Malinda Lo materialises Chinese American, Lily and white Kath’s love story during the rise of 1950’s McCarthyism. Lo’s exquisite prose contrasts Lily’s unhurried discovery of her sexuality against Kath’s unquestioned belonging at the Telegraph Club. Lo beckons readers, sentence by restrained sentence, into this incandescent novel of queer possibility.

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This article was originally published on September 27 and was updated on November 18, 2021.



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