Colson Whitehead Wins National Book Award

The election of Donald Trump and concerns about racism that come with it dominated Wednesday night’s National Book Awards. The host of the Manhattan event, comedian Larry Wilmore, opened with a few swipes at Trump. Noting that Election Night was “surreal,” he said he took issue with a friend’s remark that the night was “exciting.” “It’s exciting in the same way an asteroid hurtling toward Earth is exciting. Yeah it’s spectacular, but we’re going to die soon,” he said. Colson Whitehead, whose novel about a female slave, The Underground Railroad, won the National Book Award for fiction. In accepting, Whitehead offered reassurance to those despairing over Trump’s win, urging the audience to “Be kind. Make art. Fight the power.” The young people’s literature prize went to a book focused on the civil-rights movement, March: Book Three. One of the authors, Rep. John Lewis, teared up while accepting the award with fellow authors Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. Lewis recalled how a library in Alabama had refused to give him a library card as a child because of the color of his skin. But he didn’t give up, he said, and it paid off: “To come here and receive this award—it’s too much.”