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Literature

Whitehead, Jeffers Among Book Critics Circle Nominees

January 21, 2022

NEW YORK — Colson Whitehead’s “Harlem Shuffle,” Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ “The Love Songs of WEB DuBois” and a debut story collection by Anthony Veasna So, a promising writer who died before his book was published, are among this year’s nominees for National Book Critics Circle awards.

Other nominees range from Torrey Peters’ acclaimed first novel “Detransition, Baby” to Mark Harris’ biography of Mike Nichols to Rebecca Solnit’s “Orwell’s Roses,” in which she connects Orwell’s worldview to his joy in gardening and other domestic activities.

Winners will be announced March 17.

The NBCC announced five finalists in each of six competitive categories, and six nominees in a separate category for best first novel. The organization also awarded three honorary prizes: Author-critic Merve Emre was cited for excellence in reviewing, novelist Percival Everett for having “a transformative impact upon book culture” and Cave Canem, recipient of the NBCC’s inaugural Toni Morrison Award, for its “lasting and meaningful contributions to book culture.”

Cave Canem is a New York City based organization that helps develop and promote Black poets. It received an honorary National Book Award in 2016.

In fiction, NBCC nominees besides Whitehead and Jeffers were British author Rachel Cusk’s “Second Place,” Joshua Cohen’s “The Netanyahus” and Sarah Hall’s “Burntcoat.”

Hanif Abdurraqib’s “A Little Devil in America: Notes In Praise Of Black Performance” was a finalist for autobiography, along with Jeremy Atherton Lin’s “Gay Bar: Why We Went Out,” Rodrigo Garcia’s “A Farewell To Gabo And Mercedes: A Son’s Memoir,” Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s “A Ghost In the Throat” and Albert Samaha’s “Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes.”

Biography nominees besides Harris’ “Mike Nichols” were Susan Bernofsky’s “Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser,” Keisha N. Blain’s “Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America,” Rebecca Donner’s “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler” and Alexander Nemerov’s “Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York.”

Melissa Febos’ “Girlhood” and Jenny Diski’s “Why Didn’t You Do What You Were Told?” were among the criticism finalists, which also included Jesse McCarthy’s “Who Will Pay Reparations On My Soul?”, Mark McGurl’s “Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon” and Amia Srinivasan’s “The Right To Sex.”

In nonfiction, nominees besides “Orwell’s Roses” were Patrick Radden Keefe’s “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty,” Joshua Prager’s “The Family Roe: An American Story, Sam Quinones’ “The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth” and Clint Smith’s “How the Word Is Passed.”

B.K. Fischer’s “Ceive” was a poetry finalist, along with Donika Kelly’s “The Renunciations,” Rajiv Mohabir’s “Cutlish,” Cheswayo Mphanza’s “The Rhinehart Frames” and Diane Seuss’ “frank: sonnets.”

Peters’ “Detransition, Baby” and So’s “Afterparties” were nominees for the John Leonard Prize, awarded for best debut fiction. Others in the category included Ashley C. Ford’s “Somebody’s Daughter,” Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s “My Monticello,” Larissa Pham’s “Pop Song” and Devon Walker-Figueroa’s “Philomath.”

The NBCC was founded in 1974 and includes hundreds of critics and review editors from around the country.

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