Announcement of the 2021 National Book Awards winners

Jason Mott won the Fiction Award for his novel “Hell of a Book” at the 2021 Virtual National Book Awards on Wednesday night, held at the offices of Penguin Random House.

“The hell of a book” opens with the story of a black author traveling the country to promote his novel, but it soon expands to address themes of love, family and what what does it mean to be black in America?

Tiya Miles received the Non-Fiction Award for “Everything She Wore: The Journey of Ashley’s Bag, A Memory of the Black Family”. Beginning in the 1850s in South Carolina, the book follows the journey of a cotton sack through generations of women.

In poetry, Martín Espada won the award for his “Floaters” collection, which celebrates rebels and dreamers and condemns the government’s poor response to Hurricane Maria in 2017 in Puerto Rico, his father’s home country.

The prize in the translated literature category went to Elisa Shua Dusapin for “Winter in Sokcho”, translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins, a novel about a difficult relationship between a Franco-Korean receptionist and a French designer who lands in the house of hosts in which she works.

The Children’s Literature Prize went to Malinda Lo for “Last Night at the Telegraph Club,” which the judges called a “glowing novel of strange possibility.” The story, which takes place in 1954, follows two young women who risk everything to bring their love out of the shadows.

Karen Tei Yamashita and Nancy Pearl also received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the Literary Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, respectively.

Here is the full list of the 2021 National Book Award finalists announced in October:

Youth literature

  • Shing Yin Khor, “The Legend of Aunt Po”
  • Malinda Lo, “The Last Night at the Telegraph Club”
  • Kyle Lukoff, “Too Bright to See”
  • Kekla Magoon, “The Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People”
  • Amber McBride, “Moth (Moth)”

Translated literature

  • Elisa Shua Dusapin, “Winter in Sokcho”, translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins
  • Ge Fei, “Peach Blossom Paradise”, translated from Chinese by Canaan Morse
  • Nona Fernández, “The Twilight Zone”, translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
  • Benjamín Labatut, “When we stop understanding the world”, translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West
  • Samar Yazbek, “Planet of clay”, translated from Arabic by Leri Price


  • Desiree C. Bailey, “What a noise against the cane”
  • Martín Espada, “Floats”
  • Douglas Kearney, “Sho”
  • Hoa Nguyen, “A thousand times you lose your treasure”
  • Jackie Wang, “The sunflower cast a spell to save us from the void”

non-fictional works

  • Hanif Abdurraqib, “A Little Devil in America: Notes Praising Black Performance”
  • Lucas Bessire, “Escape: in search of water in the high plains”
  • Grace M. Cho, “Tastes Like War: A Memoir”
  • Nicole Eustace, “Covered With Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America”
  • Tiya Miles, “Everything She Wore: Ashley’s Bag Trip, A Black Family Keepsake”


  • Anthony Doerr, “Cloud Cuckoo Land”
  • Lauren Groff, “Matrix”
  • Laird Hunt, “Zorrie”
  • Robert Jones Jr., “The Prophets”
  • Jason Mott, “Hell of a Book”

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