Twenty-five titles have been shortlisted for the 2023 National Book Awards, the National Book Foundation announced Tuesday morning.
Narrowed down from last month's longlist, the finalists will compete across five genres: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature and young people's literature.
In the fiction category, Aaliyah Bilal's debut collection "Temple Folk," which intimately portrays the experiences of Black Muslims in America interrogating their relationship with mainstream culture, faces off against previous National Book Foundation honoree Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.
Adjei-Brenyah's dystopian novel "Chain-Gang All-Stars" features gladiators competing for their freedom in a private for-profit prison system in death matches broadcast live through "Criminal Action Penal Entertainment." The novel takes aim at what freedom really means in a country plagued by systemic racism, wanton capitalism and mass incarceration. Also nominated for fiction were Paul Harding for "This Other Eden," Hanna Pylväinen for "The End of Drum-Time" and Justin Torres for "Blackouts."
Books examining race, oppression and violence dominate the nonfiction shortlist. Historian Ned Blackhawk's "The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History" explores the role Indigenous peoples have played in the development of American democracy, while Christina Sharpe's "Ordinary Notes" dives deep into the legacy of white supremacy and slavery and the way these losses have shaped Black culture and life.
In Cristina Rivera Garza's "Liliana's Invincible Summer: A Sister's Search for Justice," the author travels to Mexico City to recover the case file of her sister's unresolved murder nearly 30 years after her death. Raja Shehadeh's "We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir," examines Shehadeh's complex relationship with his father, a Palestinian human rights activist who was assassinated in 1985. John Vaillant's "Fire Weather: A True Story From a Hotter World" rounds out the nonfiction list.
Among those recognized for translated literature is David Diop, whose second novel, "Beyond the Door of No Return." explores the relationship between an 18th-century French botanist and a formerly enslaved woman in Senegal. In a profile of the author, L.A. Times contributor Anderson Tepper wrote that "Diop has again exposed a neglected corner of the French colonial experience, expanding the country's literary conversation at a time of heated debate over national identity and culture." Bora Chung's surrealist dark fantasy "Cursed Bunny" also made the list.
Among shortlist finalists are four writers and one translator who are prior honorees of the National Book Foundation: Adjei-Brenyah was named in 2018 as a 5 Under 35 honoree; Pilar Quintana and Lisa Dillman were both finalists in 2020's translated literature category; Torres was named in 2012 as a 5 Under 35 honoree; and in 2010, Monica Youn was a finalist for poetry.
All 10 finalists across the nonfiction and young people's literature categories are first-time National Book Award honorees. Three of this year's finalists are debuts.
The 2023 finalists will read from their work at the annual National Book Awards Finalist Reading, hosted by writer and comedian Amber Ruffin, on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 14, at NYU Skirball.
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