Book Beat- National Book Award, Children’s Fiction, and Zadie Smith

Hi book lovers! I know it’s not Thursday but I had a midterm exam yesterday and a presentation! The only thing I was reading was textbooks. Boring, I know! In exciting news, Colson Whitehead has won the National Book Award for his book, The Underground Railroad, a harrowing tale of American slavery and the lasting horrors of racism. Oprah also selected Whitehead’s book for her book club. At a politically fraught time, Whitehead accepted the award and said that during this time he is “focusing on the redeeming power of art.” Considered one of the happiest and lightest award ceremonies, this year was reported to be somber in light of the election and the ceremony reflected angst and calls to action. You can read more about the award here.

As well, Rep. John Lewis (yeah, him!), along with Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell won the National Book Award for March: Book Three. It’s more than just an award for Lewis, who grew up in the fifties when the government was actively trying to control content in comic books. It also reflects his long dedication to civil rights, you can read more about it here.

Page from John Lewis's graphic novel March:Book Three taken from the Washington Post
Page from John Lewis’s graphic novel March:Book Three taken from the Washington Post

In other book award news, Alex Wheatle won the 2016 Guardian Book Award for his book, Crongton Knights, a novel about an inner city community tormented by knife crime and violence. Wheatle was actually inspired to write this book during his time in jail. This kind of writing, this kind of author restores some of my faith in the YA genre. You can read more about him and his award here.

To give us all some inspiration and hope, hundreds of US children’s authors have signed a declaration pledging to their commitment to using literature to help tackle racism, xenophobia and the root of this fear. It is clear, that America is impressively more divisive than we thought it could be, but these authors believe that children’s literature can and should be influential. You can read more about this exciting initiative here.

In classic Bob Dylan fashion, after worrying us with how long he took to acknowledge his Nobel Prize, he has written to the Academy that he has “pre-existing commitments.” Well, if the Swedish Academy’s plan was to award him so they could meet him, it sure backfired.

If you haven’t heard about Zadie Smith, what rock are you under? Can I join? She has been lauded as one of the greats, in her prose that explores relationships of race, class and gender. Her new book, Swing Time, is about friendship between two female dancers. Her words, like her book theme, are rhythmic and languid, beautiful as they are revealing of race and class. Read it quickly, because the same production agency that brought you Philomena the film adaption is set to film and be developed by the agency, Baby Cow. You can read more about Zadie here.

It’s the middle of  NaNoWriMo 2016, and the challenge for writers to write a book of 50,000 words in length is more than halfway through, if you’re participating I hope you’re having as much fun as you are stressing over that word count!

Until next time!

Ashley Ash

Ashley Ash

Ashley is a proud Torontonian, third year social worker student, full time child advocate and national award winning writer. She will defend Anakin Skywalker and Jon Snow till she dies.