Jason Mott, Tiya Miles Win National Book AwardsHistorians in the News
tags: African American history, National Book Award
Jason Mott won the National Book Award for fiction on Wednesday for his novel “Hell of a Book,” an account of a Black author’s book tour intertwined with one focused on a Black boy in the rural South and a third character, The Kid, who may be imaginary.
Mr. Mott, who said that his agent had picked his work out of the unsolicited “slush” pile 10 years ago, is a poet and the author of three novels in addition to “Hell of a Book.”
“I would like to dedicate this award to all the other mad kids, to all the outsiders, the weirdos, the bullied,” he said in his speech. “The ones so strange they had no choice but to be misunderstood by the world and by those around them. The ones who, in spite of this, refuse to outgrow their imagination, refuse to abandon their dreams and refuse to deny, diminish their identity, or their truth, or their loves, unlike so many others.”
The historian Tiya Miles won the nonfiction prize for “All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake.” The book traces the history of a family through a cotton sack that an enslaved woman gave to her daughter in the 19th century when they were about to be sold apart.
The judges called it “a brilliant, original work,” examining a compilation of lives “that ordinary archives suppress.” Dr. Miles, a professor at Harvard University, was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2011.
In her speech, she thanked her editor, Molly Turpin, recounting how when she first said over coffee that she wanted to write a book about “an old bag,” her editor was delighted. “Your face lit up,” she said. “You were so curious. You were so receptive. You were the perfect editor for this project.”
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