2016 National Book Award Winners Announced

On November 16th, the winners of the National Book Award were announced. Black literature showed up and showed out. Congratulations are in order to the winners:

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"While 'negative' portrayals of Black people often reinforced racist ideas, 'positive' portrayals did not necessarily weaken racist ideas. The 'positive' portrayals were simply dismissed as extraordinary Negroes, and the 'negative' portrayals were generalized as typical. Even if these racial reformers managed to one day replace all “negative” portrayals with “positive” portrayals in the mainstream media, then, like addicts, racists would then turn to other suppliers."

"In death the negro became a human being. Only then was he the white man’s equal."

John Lewis, Young People's Literature Award 

March: Book Three

Click the above links to learn more about each winning title. This level of representation is incredible. I am beyond thrilled to see Black authors getting praised and honored in this way. Congratulations to these wonderful writers and to Cave Canem, an important incubator of Black poetry.

Tokenism May Cause the Following Side Effects: An Essay by Morgan Parker

In an essay for The Poetry Foundation titled "Tokenism May Cause the Following Side Effects," poet Morgan Parker unpacks the burden of tokenism in America's 98% white publishing industry. What I like about this article is her discussion of tokenism's effect on the relationships between POC writers. She reveals that when you know the publisher is only publishing one or two Black/Asian/Latinx writers per year, it can foster a sense of unfair and unhealthy competition between writers of color.

Parker quotes writer, Jenny Zhang, who admits: "What I want is to not have to be made aware that because most publications only ever make room for one or two writers of color when those publications publish me it means another excellent writer of color does not get to have that spot, and yes, we internalize that scarcity and it makes us act wild and violent toward each other sometimes instead of kind." Read this refreshingly honest essay in full over at the Poetry Foundation.