When I attended my first National Book Awards in 2016, it was in the wake of a shocking loss in the presidential election. I was raw with grief. So the honors bestowed at the NBA that night--upon Congressman and iconic civil rights leader John Lewis; incisive cultural historian Ibram X. Kendi; and the searing, celebrated author Colson Whitehead—were a comforting balm of hope as we faced an uncertain future.
12 months later, that future is still uncertain and this work is more urgent than ever. As Whitehead said, then, in his acceptance speech, “Make art. Fight the power,” a call to creative arms that is just one of the many reasons I cohead the National Book Foundation’s Junior Committee …
Because books and reading are important—imperative, even. They matter, especially during a moment which, in the words of this year’s lifetime achievement award recipient Annie Proulx, is practically Kafkaesque. “We are living through a massive shift from representative democracy,” noted Proulx, “to something called viral direct democracy now cascading over us in a garbage-laden tsunami of raw data.” An alarmingly astute observation, it speaks to the essential canary-in-the-coal-mine role of the artist in society.
Which is why I’m writing to ask that you join me and the National Book Foundation to support the diverse, clarion voices of literature who are often first to sound the alarm. We are working to raise $10,000 before the end of the year and I’ve set up a personal fundraising page where you can help me reach our goal and the “happy ending” about which, to continue with Proulx, she spoke eloquently in her acceptance speech: “The happy ending still beckons, and it is in hope of grasping it that we go on." Please consider donating today in the belief that the best of American literature must go on.
Wishing you happy holidays and a promising new year.
For more information on the National Book Foundation, visit …