Awards Fiction Nonfiction Poetry United States

African American finalists at the US National Book Critics Circle Awards 2020

There are thirteen African, African American finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards announced on Monday, January 25, 2021.

The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, honours outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature in the United States. Every year, they present the National Book Critics Circle Award for the finest books published in English in the categories; Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Poetry, and Criticism in the United States. There are also the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, John Leonard Prize, and the Iban Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. Some previous winners of the awards have been Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Edwidge Danticat, and Saidiya Hartman.

The finalists for the awards were revealed on Monday in the different categories. Here are the African/African Americans still in the running for literary glory;


  • Shayla Lawson, This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope (HarperPerennial)
  • Wayétu Moore, The Dragons, The Giant, The Women (Graywolf)


  • Les Payne, Tamara Payne, The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X (Liveright)


  • Nicole Fleetwood, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (Harvard Univ. Press)
  • Namwali Serpell, Stranger Faces (Transit)


  • Bryan Washington, Memorial (Riverhead)


  • Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent (Random House)


  • Francine J. Harris, Here Is The Sweet Hand (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Danez Smith, Homie (Graywolf)

John Leonard Prize

Named for the longtime critic and National Book Critics Circle Award co-founder John Leonard, the Leonard Prize is awarded for the best first book in any genre and was launched in 2013. R

  • Raven Leilani, Luster (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Brandon Taylor, Real Life (Riverhead)

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing recognises outstanding work by a member of the NBCC. The citation is awarded in honor of Nona Balakian, a founding member of the National Book Critics Circle, where she served as the board’s first secretary.

  • Rumaan Alam

The winners will be announced at a ceremony on March 25, 2021.

By James Murua

This blog is run by James Murua a Nairobi, Kenya based lover of books.

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