NEW YORK — Novels by Colson Whitehead and Jacqueline Woodson and a graphic novel by Rep. John Lewis were among the finalists announced Thursday for the National Book Award.
Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad,” one of the year’s most talked about works even before it was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey for her book club, and Woodson’s “Another Brooklyn,” were cited for fiction. Lewis, the longtime Georgia congressman, is in the young people’s literature category for “March: Book Three,” the last of a trilogy based on his years in the civil rights movement.
From a pool of nearly 1,500 submissions, judging committees chose five books in each of four competitive categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature. Winners, each of whom receive $10,000, will be announced Nov. 16 at a benefit dinner ceremony in Manhattan. Honorary medals will be presented to historian Robert Caro and to the Cave Canem writing center.
The finalists were announced by the nonprofit National Book Foundation, which presents the awards. Many of the books explore the country’s history of racism and those who fought it, from Whitehead’s novel about an escaped slave to such nonfiction works as Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” and Andres Resendez’s “The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America.”
Longlists of 10 in each category were unveiled last month.
Woodson and nonfiction finalist Viet Thanh Nguyen already are prize-winning authors and have a chance to prevail in new categories. Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming” won the National Book Award in 2014 for young people’s literature. Nguyen, cited Thursday for “Nothing Ever Dies,” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last spring for his novel “The Sympathizer.”
Others in the running this year for the National Book Award for fiction were Chris Bachelder for “The Throwback Special,” Paulette Jiles for “News of the World” and Karan Mahajan for “The Association of Small Bombs.”
Nonfiction finalists also included Arlie Russell Hochschild for “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” and Heather Ann Thompson for “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.”
Besides Lewis and “March” collaborators Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, the young people’s literature category selections were Kate DiCamillo for “Raymie Nightingale,” Grace Lin for “When the Sea Turned to Silver,” Jason Reynolds for “Ghost” and Nicola Yoon for “The Sun Is Also a Star.”
In poetry, former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove was chosen for the anthology “Collected Poems 1974-2014.” Other finalists were Daniel Borzutzky for “The Performance of Becoming Human,” Peter Gizzi for “Archeophonics,” Jay Hopler for “The Abridged History of Rainfall” and Solmaz Sharif for “Look.”