Awards Fiction Guadeloupe Nonfiction Poetry Translation United States Young Adult

Writers of African descent on US National Book Awards 2021 longlists

The longlists for the US National Book Awards 2020, featuring many leading writers and poets of African descent, were announced from September 16-18, 2021

The US National Book Awards are literary awards from the Northern American nations National Book Foundation established in 1936. They are conferred on the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature. In 2020, Les Payne, Tamara Payne, and Kacen Callender won in their categories while Walter Mosley was given a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The longlists for the 2021 edition were unveiled in all the traditional categories this past week. The following were the writers and poets of African descent who made the cut;


The judges for Fiction are Luis Alberto Urrea (Chair), Alan Michael Parker, Emily Pullen, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, and Charles Yu.

  • Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois, Harper / HarperCollins Publishers
  • Robert Jones, Jr., The Prophets, G. P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin Random House
  • Jason Mott, Hell of a Book, Dutton / Penguin Random House


The judges for Nonfiction are Nell Painter (Chair), Eula Biss, Aaron John Curtis, Kate Tuttle, and Jerald Walker.

  • Hanif Abdurraqib, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, Random House / Penguin Random House
  • Heather McGhee, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, One World / Penguin Random House
  • Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake, Random House / Penguin Random House
  • Clint Smith, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, Little, Brown and Company / Hachette Book Group
  • Deborah Willis, The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship, New York University Press


The judges for Poetry are A. Van Jordan (Chair), Don Mee Choi, Natalie Diaz, Matthea Harvey, and Ilya Kaminsky.

  • Baba Badji, Ghost Letters, Parlor Press
  • Desiree C. Bailey, What Noise Against the CaneYale University Press
  • CM Burroughs, Master Suffering, Tupelo Press
  • Douglas Kearney, Sho, Wave Books

Translated Literature

The judges for Translated Literature are Stephen Snyder (Chair), Jessie Chaffee, Sergio de la Pava, Madhu H. Kaza, and Achy Obejas.

  • Maryse Condé, Waiting for the Waters to Rise, Translated from the French by Richard Philcox, World Editions.

Young People’s Literature

The judges for Young People’s Literature are Cathryn Mercier (Chair), Pablo Cartaya, Traci Chee, Leslie Connor, and Ibi Zoboi.

  • Safia Elhillo, Home Is Not a Country, Make Me a World / Penguin Random House
  • Kekla Magoon, Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People, Candlewick Press
  • Amber McBride, Me (Moth), Feiwel and Friends / Macmillan Publishers
  • Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrations by Floyd Cooper, Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, Carolrhoda Books / Lerner Publishing Group

The finalists for the awards will be revealed on October 5 before the winners are announced in November.

By James Murua

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

One reply on “Writers of African descent on US National Book Awards 2021 longlists”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.