2020 National Book Awards Finalists, Writers Rally Behind Tsitsi Dangarembga, and More

by Staff

Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—publishing reports, literary dispatches, academic announcements, and more—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories.

The National Book Foundation has announced the shortlists for the 2020 National Book Awards. Among the fiction finalists are two debuts: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw and Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. All five of the poetry finalists are published by independent presses. The shortlist for translated literature features works that first appeared in German, Swedish, Japanese, Spanish, and Arabic. The winner in each category will be announced at a virtual ceremony on November 18. (Washington Post)

Zimbabwean novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow after being charged earlier this summer with intention to incite public violence during an anti-corruption protest in Harare. Many writers have rallied behind Dangarembga, defending her right to peaceful protest and calling for the charges to be dropped. (Guardian)

The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to New York City literary nonprofit House of SpeakEasy. Earmarked for visual arts–related projects, the grant will allow the organization to expand its bookmobile program and deliver art books and arts programming to underserved communities. (Publishers Weekly)

“I don’t think it’s a book without hope. It’s dark, but it’s not wholly pessimistic. I think the novel’s optimism lies really in that one idea, in communion.” Rumaan Alam talks to the Paris Review Daily about the timely lessons of his latest novel, Leave the World Behind

“I always wondered why it was so hard to find books about the ordinary traumas of being a woman.” Sarah Kasbeer, the author of A Woman, A Plan, An Outline of a Man, discusses the power and limits of writing as a tool to explore trauma. (Guernica)

“It hurts so much to actually deal with these issues, especially with the people whom I loved for such a long time.” Issac J. Bailey describes the emotional tax of writing his new essay collection, Why Didn’t We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland. (NPR)

“I’ve realized how much of this gig is your subconscious, and my subconscious, like everybody else’s in the world, is a smoking crater right now.” Tana French discusses her new novel, The Searcher, and the struggle to write in the pandemic era. (New York Times

The Chicago Review of Books recommends ten new October releases, including Negotiations by Destiny O. Birdsong and A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo.