NEW YORK (AP) — Ta-Nehisi Coates is a prize-winning nonfiction author, journalist and comic book writer. Now he is taking on fiction.
Random House’s One World imprint announced Thursday that Coates has two more books planned, one nonfiction and the other fiction. The books were acquired by One World publisher Chris Jackson, who edited Coates’ best-selling “Between the World and Me.” The book was a Pulitzer Prize finalist last month and winner of the National Book Award.
The first new book is scheduled to come out next year. No other details were made available.
Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and is working on a new Black Panther comic book series for Marvel. He is also the author of “The Beautiful Struggle,” a memoir about his childhood.
Last year I was offered the opportunity to script an 11-issue series of Black Panther, for Marvel. The Black Panther—who, when he debuted in an issue of Fantastic Four, in 1966, was the first black superhero in mainstream American comics—is the alter ego of T’Challa, the king of Wakanda, a mythical and technologically advanced African country.
By day, T’Challa mediates conflicts within his nation. By night, he battles Dr. Doom. The attempt to make these two identities—monarch and superhero—cohere has proved a rich vein for storytelling by such creators as Jack Kirby, Christopher Priest, and Reginald Hudlin. But when I got the call to write Black Panther, I was less concerned with character conflict than with the realization of my dreams as a 9-year-old.
Some of the best days of my life were spent poring over the back issues of TheUncanny X-Men and The Amazing Spider-Man. As a child of the crack-riddled West Baltimore of the 1980s, I found the tales of comic books to be an escape, another reality where, very often, the weak and mocked could transform their fallibility into fantastic power. That is the premise behind the wimpy Steve Rogers mutating into Captain America, behind the nerdy Bruce Banner needing only to grow angry to make his enemies take flight, behind the bespectacled Peter Parker being transfigured by a banal spider bite into something more.
But comic books provided something beyond escapism. Indeed, aside from hip-hop and Dungeons & Dragons, comics were my earliest influences. In the way that past writers had been shaped by the canon of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wharton, I was formed by the canon of Claremont, DeFalco, and Simonson. Some of this was personal. All of the comics I loved made use of two seemingly dueling forces—fantastic grandiosity and ruthless efficiency. Comic books are absurd. At any moment, the Avengers might include a hero drawn from Norse mythology (Thor), a monstrous realization of our nuclear-age nightmares (the Hulk), a creation of science fiction (Wasp), and an allegory for the experience of minorities in human society (Beast).
Finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards have been announced. Awards are given out in six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Five finalists are chosen in each category. The winners will be announced on March 17 at a ceremony at the New School in New York City.
Several of the finalists are African Americans who have ties to the academic world:
Elizabeth Alexander is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University. Professor Alexander has been a member of the faculty at Yale since 2000. She previously taught at the University of Chicago. Professor Alexander is the author of six collections of poetry. She is being honored in the autobiography category for her book The Light of the World(Grand Central Publishing, 2015). Professor Alexander is a graduate of Yale University. She earned a master’s degree at Boston University and a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a finalist in the criticism category for his book Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015). The book is a memoir of his life as a Black man in America. The book earlier won the National Book Award. Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine. Coates has served as a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Management. Coates attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 2015, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Ross Gay teaches in the creative writing program at Indiana University and for the low-residency master of fine arts degree program in poetry at Drew University in New Jersey. He is a finalist in the poetry category for his collection Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). Dr. Gay is a native of Youngstown, Ohio. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Dr. Gay earned a master of fine arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and a Ph.D. in American literature from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Terrance Hayes was nominated in the poetry category for his collection How to Be Drawn (Penguin Books, 2015). Professor Hayes joined the English department faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in 2013. He previously taught at Xavier University of Louisiana and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. A graduate of Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, Professor Hayes earned a master of fine arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh. In 2014, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Margo Jefferson is a professor of writing in the School of the Arts at Columbia University and a professor at the Eugene Lang College of The New School for Liberal Arts in New York. She is nominated in the autobiography category for Negroland (Pantheon, 2015). She won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism while writing for The New York Times. Professor Jefferson is a graduate of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and holds a master’s degree from Columbia University.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, already a National Book Award winner for “Between the World and Me,” now has a chance to add a National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism to his mantel. Mr. Coates’s book, a meditation on racism in America written in the form of a letter to his son, joins works by the novelist Lauren Groff, the memoirist and critic Vivian Gornick and the poet Ada Limón among those nominated for the awards.
The awards, determined by a jury of critics and book review editors, honor excellence in six categories – autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The winners will be named on March 17. On Monday, however, the group announced the recipients of its two annual citations: Wendell Berry, an environmentalist, farmer and novelist, won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, while Carlos Lozada, the nonfiction critic for The Washington Post, captured the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.
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.
“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 Blandand 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.
In light of the recent events surrounding racial and social injustice around the country, knowing our history, as part of our eternal quest to “stay woke,” is more important than ever. While many of us are experiencing a new movement unfolding right before our eyes, scholars, experts and even regular folks with stories to tell, have been putting their experiences to the page to enlighten generations.
The publishing industry suffers from the same lack of diversity and racial biases that plague society at large. While many books don’t make school reading lists or even the New York Times Bestsellers List, there are countless classics that break down the Black experience in America.
It’s hardly a complete list, which could go on for volumes, but it’s a great starting point:
1. The Mis-Education of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson
This book is of primary importance in understanding the legacy of slavery and how it affects Black Americans’ perspectives in society. The book essentially argues that Black Americans are not educated, but rather conditioned in American society. It challenges Black Americans to “do for themselves” outside of the constructs that are set up for them.
2. And Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
This is one of the most affirming books you will ever read. Technically, it is a collection of poems which focus on hope, determination and overcoming struggle. It contains one of Angelou’s most famous poems, Phenomenal Woman.
3. The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois
One of the most important books on race in sociology and African-American studies, it is a collection of essays that Du Bois wrote by drawing from his personal experiences. Two of the most profound social concepts – The Veil And Double Consciousness were written about in this book which have come to be widely known as part of the experience of being Black in America.
4. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
You may have seen the movie from Steven Spielberg or the recent Broadway musical, but I highly encourage you read this powerful novel, too. The book explores in depth the low position Black women are given in society through the lens of a particular group of women. The story explores both interpersonal turmoil and socially-inflicted violence toward Black women, as well as the bonds they share.
Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of 24 people selected for this year’s “genius grants” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced Tuesday.
Coates, the author of current New York Times bestseller “Between the World and Me,” is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about cultural, political and social issues, most prominently racial issues. Recipients receive $625,000 over five years to continue work in their respective fields. Other winners include playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, puppeteer Basil Twist, poet Ellen Bryan Voigt and writer Ben Lerner.
“The Case for Reparations,” Coates’ 2014 centerpiece essay on the state of race relations in the United States, prompted a frenzy of online discussion and debate over the legacy of slavery and institutional racism in America.
Ta-Nehisi Coates can be identified in many ways: as a national correspondent for The Atlantic, as an author and, as of this month, as a nominee for the National Book Award’s nonfiction prize. But Mr. Coates also has a not-so-secret identity, as evidenced by some of his Atlantic blog posts and his Twitter feed: Marvel Comics superfan.
So it seems only natural that Marvel has asked Mr. Coates to take on a new Black Panther series set to begin next spring. Writing for that comics publisher is a childhood dream that, despite the seeming incongruity, came about thanks to his day job. “The Atlantic is a pretty diverse place in terms of interest, but there are no comics nerds,” besides himself, Mr. Coates said in an interview.
His passions intersected in May, during the magazine’s New York Ideas seminar, when he interviewed Sana Amanat, a Marvel editor, about diversity and inclusion in comic books. Ms. Amanat led the creation of the new Ms. Marvel, a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City, based on some of her own childhood experiences.
“It was a fruitful discussion,” he recalled.
After that event, Marvel reached out, paired Mr. Coates with an editor, and discussions about the comic began. The renewed focus on Black Panther is no surprise. Created in 1966, he is the first black superhero and hails from Wakanda, a fictional African country.
“He has the baddest costume in comics and is a dude who is smarter and better than everyone,” said Axel Alonso, the editor in chief of Marvel. The character not only adds to the diversity of Marvel’s comics; he will do it for their films too: Black Panther is set to make his big-screen debut next year in “Captain America: Civil War,” followed by a solo feature in 2018.