Ta-Nehisi Coates Receives National Book Award For Nonfiction; Robin Coste Lewis for Poetry

Ta-Nehisi Coates marked another professional triumph Wednesday night by winning the National Book Award for nonfiction for “Between the World and Me,” his timely, bestselling meditation on race in America.

In an acceptance speech that prompted a standing ovation from the black tie-clad crowd at Cipriani Wall Street in New York, Coates dedicated the award to Prince Jones, a Howard University classmate who was killed while unarmed by a police officer and who figures prominently in the memoir, written as a letter to Coates’ teenage son.

As Coates explained, the officer responsible for Jones’ death was never disciplined for the killing.

“I’m a black man in America. I can’t punish that officer. ‘Between the World and Me’ comes out of that place,” said Coates, a national correspondent for the Atlantic who was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in September.

National Book Award Poetry Winner Robin Coste Lewis (photo via poetry project.org)
National Book Award Poetry Winner Robin Coste Lewis (photo via poetryproject.org)

“We are in this moment where folks are recording everything on their phones. Every day you turn on the TV and you see some sort of violence being directed at black people,” Coates said, alluding to controversial incidents caught on tape, including the death of Eric Garner, the arrest of Sandra Bland and the killing of Walter Scott, an unarmed man shot and killed in South Carolina this year.

“I have waited 15 years for this moment, because when Prince Jones died, there were no cameras, there was nobody looking.”

Robin Coste Lewis was also named a winner last night – she took the poetry prize for her debut collection, “Voyage of the Sable Venus,” a reflection on the black female form throughout history.

article by Meredith Blake via latimes.com

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