Ta-Nehisi Coates wins 2015 National Book Award

The acclaimed essayist took the nonfiction prize for Between the World and Me.
Ta-Nehisi Coates has won the National Book Award for nonfiction for his book Between the World and Me. (Anna Webber/Getty Images)

Ta-Nehisi Coates has won the National Book Award for nonfiction for Between the World and Me, his personal and visceral take on what it means to be a black man in America. The book, published this year in the midst of a maelstrom of race-related shootings in the United States, was dedicated to Coates' college friend, Prince Jones, who was shot to death by a police officer who mistook him for a criminal.

In his emotional acceptance speech on Wednesday night, Coates said, "Every day you turn on the TV and see some kind of violence being directed at black people. Over and over and over again. And it keeps happening."

Coates, a correspondent for The Atlantic, made waves in 2014 with his essay "The Case for Reparations," in which he looked at the personal and political history of racism in America. Between the World and Me is written as a letter to his son, Samori. In the summer, Coates talked about the book with Shad on CBC's q.

The other 2015 National Book Awards went to:

  • 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Johnson in the fiction category, for his short story collection Fortune Smiles, which the judges called "surprising, wondrous, comic and devastating"
  • Neal Shusterman in the young people's literature category for Challenger Deep, about a teenager suffering from mental illness who fantasizes about journeying to the deepest point on earth
  • Robin Coste Lewis for her poetry collection Voyage of the Sable Venus, a meditation on black womanhood.

The novelists James Patterson and Don DeLillo were given special honours; Patterson received the Literarian Award for his service to the literary community and his philanthropy work around literacy, and DeLillo was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The National Book Award was established in 1950 and celebrates the best of American literature.


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