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The 2020 National Book Awards ceremony is going virtual

The National Book Foundation's annual National Book Awards is moving online this year.
(National Book Foundation)

This year’s National Book Awards ceremony and its preceding events are going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Book Foundation announced Friday that the 71st National Book Awards Ceremony will be held online Nov. 18 “in light of public health concerts related to the coronavirus and to ensure the safety of all participants.”

It’s a major, though not surprising change for the traditionally glitzy New York gala that celebrates literary excellence.

“Though the medium is new, the entire Board and National Book Foundation staff remain committed to hosting a National Book Awards celebration that is a beacon of hope for all who attend — from our incredible Judges and future Finalists to readers everywhere — and one that maintains the high standards that have come to be associated with the Awards and the National Book Foundation,” David Steinberger, chair of the board of directors, said in a statement.

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The 2019 National Book Awards honor Susan Choi for her novel “Trust Exercise” and Sarah M. Broom for her memoir “The Yellow House.”

The ceremony’s preceding events such as 5 Under 35, the National Book Awards Finalist Reading and Teen Press Conference,
which usually take place the week before the ceremony, will now be stretched throughout October and November.

This year’s submissions window also was extended from April 1 through May 20 due to the pandemic. The foundation said the number of submissions from publishers did not decline from previous years, “showing the commitment of the entire publishing community to our mission to honor books, to champion the work of writers, and to protect, stimulate, and promote discourse in American culture.”

“The National Book Awards are a celebration of books and all the people who have a hand in forming them,” said Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation. “As a country, and within the literary community, we have all experienced a shift in reality; yet through this collective uncertainty, we are dedicated to centering and elevating the work of writers who are grounding us and giving us the gift of their words. The ceremony in November is the time for doing so and we look forward to sharing it with all of you.”

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Last November, “Trust Exercise” by author Susan Choi and “The Yellow House” by memoirist Sarah M. Broom took home the top honors — fiction and nonfiction, respectively — at the 2019 National Book Awards.

Journalist Bonnie Tsui, author of “Why We Swim,” joins the L.A. Times Book Club for a July 28 virtual meetup.


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