‘The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois’ wins literary criticism award
“The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois” by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, her epic novel about racismresilience and identity named after the influential black scholar and activist, received the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award.
Critics’ Circle praised Jeffers for “weaving centuries of ancestor ‘songs’ into his account of the coming of age and young adult of a brilliant scholar from Atlanta. Jeffers, an English professor at the University of Oklahoma and author of five books of poetry, was among the winners announced Thursday at a ceremony held online because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the nonfiction In this category, the award went to “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America” by Clint Smith. Rebecca Donner’s “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler” won the biography award, and Jeremy Atherton Lin’s “Gay Bar: Why Went Out” was named the best autobiography. The Poetry Prize went to “Frank: Sonnets” by Diane Seuss and the Critics’ Prize went to “Girlhood” by Melissa Febos.
Antthony Veasna So, a much-loved author who died suddenly in 2020 at the age of 28, received posthumous praise on Thursday. His collection of stories “Afterparties” received the John Leonard Award for Best First Book. Leonard, a founding member of NBCC who died in 2008, was known for his support of emerging writers.
The inauguration Toni Morisson The Excellence Award, created last year in honor of the late Nobel laureate and awarded to “institutions that have made a lasting and significant contribution to book culture”, was awarded to the Cave Canem Foundation. A self-described “house of black poetry” established in 1996 by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady, the foundation has helped support award-winning poets such as Claudia Rankine and Tracy K. Smith.
Novelist Percival Everett, whose books include such meta-fiction as “Erasure” and “A History of the African-American People,” has received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, named after the critics circle’s first president. The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Criticism, named after the late critic and NBCC co-founder, was awarded to New York contributor Merve Emre.
The NBCC was founded in 1974 and includes hundreds of “critics, authors, literary bloggers, book publishing professionals, student members and friends”.