|National Book Award 2017 Winners|
Southern writer Jesmyn Ward
won the National Book Award for her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing about a struggling family in Mississippi. Ward also won the award in 2011 for Salvage the Bones.
"Throughout my career when I've been rejected, there was sometimes subtext, and it was this: 'People will not read your work because these are not universal stories.' I don't know if some doorkeepers felt this way because I wrote about poor people or because I wrote about black people or because I wrote about Southerners," Ward said in her award speech. "And you, my fellow writers and editors and publishing people and National Book Foundation folks who read my work, you answered plainly. You looked at me and the people I love and write about.
"I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you who reads my work and finds something that sings to you, that moves you in it. I hope to continue this conversation with you for all of our days."
Award-winning journalist Masha Gessen won the award for her nonfiction work, The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. The book follows the lives of four people who were born in the author's native Russia at what promised to be the dawn of democracy but ended up crushed by the reemergence of the old Soviet order.
The poetry finalists included The Book of Endings by Leslie Harrison; WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier; In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae; and Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith.
And the finalists for young people's literature were What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold; I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez; Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia; and American Street by Ibi Zoboi.