New York has brought some amazing experiences into my life and one of them is attending the National Book Awards Finalists Reading at The New School.
The stage is set, the light dims, and a finalist walks up to the podium. A lifetime ago they had been scribbling on a computer and pouring their soul into the work that they are about to read from. This moment is once in a lifetime. Highlighting the best of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature, the National Book Awards cultivates the prestige of literature.
The reading lasted a few hours, each finalist allowed to read a passage of their work, including the newest category of translation in its written language and English counterpart. Over that time, the voices of these artists reached out and called to the audience, challenging them to reconsider what literature meant, what it represented. It was a call to action, to recalled that memories are more than an individual moment, that ghosts of past lives can be unrelenting, that words have music hidden between their lines.
The reading ended with a standing ovation and congratulating the authors on being finalists in this prestigious award. The winners were announced the next morning as follows:
Fiction: Susan Choi, Trust Exercise
Nonfiction: Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House
Poetry: Arthur Sze, Sight Lines
Translation: Ottilie Mulzet translating László Krasznahorkai’s Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming
Young People’s Literature: Martin W. Sandler, 1919 The Year That Changed America
The ability to attend such a reading and listen as each author delivered their work has shown that literature is not just words on the page, it is community, performance, and most of all fearless art.