The winners of the 2021 National Book Awards have been announced. North Carolina writer Jason Mott won the fiction prize for his novel titled “Hell of a Book.” Mott’s story was inspired by police killings of African Americans in recent years.
Harvard University historian Tiya Miles won the 2021 nonfiction prize for “All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake.” It’s the story of a family torn apart by slavery in the mid-19th century.
Martín Espada won an award for his book of poetry, “Floaters,” which honors asylum seekers who’ve drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande into Texas. Espada read a passage on Democracy Now! in January 2020.
Martín Espada: “Like a beer bottle thrown into the river by a boy too drunk to cry,
like the shard of a Styrofoam cup drained of coffee brown as the river,
like the plank of a fishing boat broken in half by the river, the dead float.
And the dead have a name: floaters, say the men of the Border Patrol,
keeping watch all night by the river, hearts pumping coffee as they say
the word floaters, soft as a bubble, hard as a shoe as it nudges the body,
to see if it breathes, to see if it moans, to see if it sits up and speaks.”