US National Book Awards 2021

Writers of African descent finalists at the US National Book Awards 2021.

The finalists for the US National Book Awards 2021, featuring many leading writers and poets of African descent, were announced on October 5, 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 from September 16-18. Tthe following writers and poets of African descent who made the finalists’ cut;


Judging panel: Luis Alberto Urrea (Chair), Alan Michael Parker, Emily Pullen, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, and Charles Yu.

  • Robert Jones, Jr., The Prophets, G. P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin Random House
  • Jason Mott, Hell of a Book, Dutton / Penguin Random House


Judging panel: 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
  • Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake, Random House / Penguin Random House


Judging panel: A. Van Jordan (Chair), Don Mee Choi, Natalie Diaz, Matthea Harvey, and Ilya Kaminsky.

  • Desiree C. Bailey, What Noise Against the CaneYale University Press

Young People’s Literature

Judging panel: Cathryn Mercier (Chair), Pablo Cartaya, Traci Chee, Leslie Connor, and Ibi Zoboi.

  • 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

The winners, to receive $10,000, will be announced at a virtual ceremony on November 17.


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