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Posts Tagged ‘National Book Critics Circle Award’

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This week’s “3 Questions” features Lauren Groff,  bestselling author of the novels The Monsters of Templeton, Arcadia and Fates and Furies, and the short story collection Delicate Edible Birds. Ms. Groff has won the PEN/O’Henry Prize, and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Ms. Groff’s most recent novel is Florida, of which the critics have said, “Storms, snakes, sinkholes, and secrets: In Lauren Groff’s Florida, the hot sun shines, but a wild darkness lurks. Florida is a “superlative” book” – Boston Globe, “gorgeously weird and limber”  – New Yorker,  and “brooding, inventive and often moving” – NPR Fresh Air. Ms. Groff lives with her family in Gainesville, Florida, but will be reading on July 19th (with Fairlee resident and author Christopher Wren) as part of The Meetinghouse Readings in Canaan. These readings are held at 7:30 p.m. on four Thursday evenings in July and early August, and are free and open to the public; no reservations needed. Please call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com with questions and/or to secure your copies of Ms. Groff’s works.

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1.What three books have helped shape you into the writer you are today, and why?
​Emily Dickinson’s Collected Poems taught me to love poetry and enigma. George Eliot’s Middlemarch ​is a book I reread every year to remind myself what wisdom and warmth look like in a novel. Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red taught me that writers should risk everything because the reward ​ can be so thrilling.

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2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?
​I’d love to have a cup of coffee with Virginia Woolf to try to understand the brain that could write a book so colossal and world-rearranging as To The Lighthouse.

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3.What books are currently on your bedside table?
​I’m in a renovated barn in Orford, New Hampshire with so little furniture there’s no bedside table. But I’m doing a large project on the largely forgotten writer Nancy Hale and am reading all of her books right now. [Editor’s note: Ms. Hale’s books are unfortunately out of print so you wont find them at the Norwich Bookstore.]

As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, The Book Jam has paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

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17075-an-african-american-woman-looking-out-a-window-pv.jpgWe audit because we truly believe we are what we read, and also because we truly believe that the best way to expand your horizons (when you can’t actually travel) is to read books written by or about people who are different from you. It is our hope these audits expose the voices we are missing and create focus for filling those gaps in the coming year.

So, our latest audit results:

During the previous twelve months (from our February 2016 audit), we reviewed 124 authors. For purposes of this audit, we did not include guest columns or the “3 Questions” series, because we don’t control their selections, and we could not include books written by groups such as Lonely Planet or series written by a variety of authors.

Women authors were 62% of the authors we featured.  Men comprised the remaining 38% of the featured authors; we do not have access to the number of authors we reviewed who are transgender or other sexual identifies. In addition, although we know some of the authors we highlighted are gay or lesbian or bisexual, we do not know the sexual orientations for all the authors we review, and thus do not audit by sexual orientation. We also do not have access to class statistics. Thus, our diversity audit focuses on gender and race.

Fifty-six white women, from a variety of nations, were reviewed, comprising 45% of all authors we featured. We reviewed one South American woman and six Latinas from the USA meaning 6% of our featured authors were women with a Latina background. We featured three Asian women, and 9% of our authors were African or African American women.

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Slightly fewer than a third (29%) of the authors we featured were white men from a variety of continents: 6% were African American men; 2% were Asian/Indian men; and, we reviewed one Latino-American male author.

Adding men and women together, 74% of the authors we reviewed were white.  We can make ourselves feel slightly better about this bias by pointing out that fewer than half (44%) of the white authors featured were from the USA, meaning there was diversity among the nations represented (i.e., Canada, Australia, Sweden, France). The largest group of nonwhite authors were African or African American for 15% of our featured authors.

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We also note we are improving the diversity of the authors reviewed — 77% of authors in last year’s audit were white, which was slightly lower than 2015’s audit when 81% of our featured authors were white.

However, the fact remains that only 26% of the authors we featured during the past 12 months were authors of color. And even though a librarian friend pointed out we should look at the low percentages of books being published by authors of color to truly have a picture of the possibilities for our reviews (e.g., 22% of Childrens book authors published in 2016 were people of color; we could not find a similar study of books for adults), the fact that almost three quarters of the authors we reviewed are white gives us pause.

So, once again we vow to keep our eyes searching the shelves for a diversity of reads and our minds aware of the challenges facing authors of color. And, we finish February – Black History Month in the USA – by highlighting some great, never before reviewed by us, books by African or African American authors.

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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Cover ImageBorn A Crime by Trevor Noah (2016) – Mr. Noah, of Daily Show fame, is funny. He is insightful. And, he has a unique backstory for his life thusfar. All this combines to create a superb, insightful, humorous, and important memoir about life as a biracial child in South Africa during and after Apartheid. Read it, laugh, learn, and pass it along to others who can benefit from a well told life story. (Please note: Mr. Noah reads the audiobook version and we have been told it is tremendous.)

The Hate U Give Cover ImageThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) – Sometimes it takes a work of fiction to give life to current events. And sometimes it takes a book for children or young adults to give all of us a starting point for conversations about difficult issues. Ms. Thomas has done us all a service by producing this fresh, enlightening, and spectacular book about the black lives lost at the hands of the police every year in the USA. Starr Carter, the teen she created to put faces on the statistics, straddles two worlds — that of her poor black neighborhood and  that of her exclusive prep school on the other side of town. She believes she is doing a pretty good job managing the differing realities of her life until she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend by a police officer. As a description of this book stated, The Hate U Give “addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty”.  Just as importantly, it is a great story, told by a gifted author, with complex characters who will haunt you.  Please read this one!

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration Cover ImageThe Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (2010) – Ms. Wilkerson puts human faces on one of the most important social movements in American history – the Great Migration. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, this book will fascinate and teach you. Ms. Wilkerson captures the treacherous and exhausting trips by car and train of more than six million African Americans from the South to the North. She portrays how their new homes grew into ghettos, as well as how these migrants changed their new cities with their southern culture, highlighting their food and faith.

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