Winners of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, addressing racism and diversity, have been announced

Jesmyn Ward's "Sing, Unburied, Sing" wins the fiction prize of the Anisfield-Wolf Awards.
(John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation / AP)

The winners of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, which honor outstanding books that address racism and diversity, will go this year to authors Jesmyn Ward, Kevin Young, N. Scott Momaday and Shane McCrae. Each will be awarded a prize of $10,000.

Ward won the fiction award for “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” her acclaimed novel that also won a 2017 National Book Award. The novel tells the story of a 13-year-old Mississippi boy who goes on a road trip with his mother and sister to reunite with his father, who is scheduled to be released from prison.

Reviewing the novel for The Times, critic Michelle Dean called Ward “an excellent writer of brief but socially and intellectually ambitious novels.” In 2017, Ward was named a MacArthur Fellow.


The nonfiction prize goes to Young for his book “Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News,” which critic Colin Dickey called “a wild, incisive, exhilarating tour through Western culture’s sideshows and dark corners” in a review for The Times. Young’s book was also a finalist for the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism.

McCrae will receive the poetry award for “In the Language of My Captor,” a collection of verse that explores themes of freedom and captivity. The book was previously recognized with the 2017 Lannan Literary Award for Poetry.

The lifetime achievement award is going to the legendary Native American novelist and poet Momaday, perhaps best known for his debut novel, “House Made of Dawn,” which won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards were established in 1935 by the poet Edith Anisfield Wolf, and are given each year by the Cleveland Foundation, an Ohio-based community foundation.

Past winners of the awards include Junot Díaz, Zadie Smith, Jamaica Kincaid, Peter Ho Davies and Marlon James, who announced this year’s winners on Thursday.

This year’s awards were selected by a jury that included Henry Louis Gates Jr., Joyce Carol Oates, Simon Schama, Rita Dove and Steven Pinker.


In a news release, Gates said, “The new Anisfield-Wolf winners deepen our insights on race and diversity. This year, we honor a lyrical novel haunted by a Mississippi prison farm, a book of exceptional poetry on what freedom means in captivity and a breakthrough history of the hoax that speaks to this political moment. All is capped by the lifetime achievement of N. Scott Momaday, the dean of Native American letters.”

The winners will be honored at a ceremony in Cleveland on Sept. 27.