Below is the live stream of Wednesday night’s National Book Awards Ceremony, hosted by Larry Wilmore, begins at 7:40 p.m., Eastern.
The winners as they were announced:
Literarian Award — Poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady, creators of Cave Canem
Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters — Robert A. Caro
Young People’s Literature, presented by Katherine Paterson — John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell (Artist), March: Book Three, Top Shelf Productions / IDW Publishing — an emotional Lewis said he remembered trying to get a library card as a child and being told that the library was for whites only. Going from that to winning this award is just “too much.”
Poetry, presented by Joy Harjo — Daniel Borzutzky, The Performance of Becoming Human, Brooklyn Arts Press — Borzutzky said he had been supported throughout his career by “people who publish books in their apartments.” Jewish and Chilean-American, he asked that everyone do their part to make sure this country continues to be safe and welcoming to immigrants.
Nonfiction, presented by Masha Gessen — Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
Nation Books / Perseus Books Group — Kendi noted that, in writing this book, he has spent years looking at the worst of America, but he never lost faith that the terror of racism would one day be dead, and even as the first black president is about to leave the White House, while a man enthusiastically supported by the Ku Klux Klan is about to enter, he still has that faith.
Fiction, presented by James English — Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad Doubleday / Penguin Random House — In an understatement, Whitehead said the last four months have been surreal (his book was an Oprah pick). In a year he went from wondering if anyone would read his book, to seeing it become a best seller, a reminder that we don’t know where we may be a year from now. “Right now, we’re happy in here; outside is the blasted hellhole wasteland of Trumpland.” He offered advice that makes him feel better, “Be kind to everybody, make art and fight the power.”
At the end, Larry Wilmore summed up the evening by saying, “Wow. The National Book Awards is WOKE.” Referring to the fact that the majority of the people who were on the stage were black, from the new Executive Director if the National Book Foundation Lisa Lucas, to the most of the winners, Wilmore joked this was “the National Book Awards, presented by BET, with a special appearance by Robert Caro.” He hastened to add that he really likes Bob Caro, something that was obvious in his reaction to Caro’s acceptance speech.