Here are the finalists for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Awards

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Eight of the 30 finalists announced Thursday for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Awards.
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The Contenders

2021 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalists

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Stories set in Harlem in the early 1960s, a biography about Black civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, and a follow-up on America’s opioid epidemic are among the 30 finalists chosen by the National Book Critics Circle on Thursday, covering 2021 publications in six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

Six finalists were also chosen for the John Leonard Prize, awarded to an author for the best first book in any genre. Among them are Torrey Peters, 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction nominee for “Detransition, Baby,” and the late Anthony Veasna So, who died in December 2020, for his posthumous short story collection, “Afterparties.”

Friends and family mourn Anthony Veasna So, whose highly anticipated debut story collection, “Afterparties,” brings refugee Stockton to life.

Aug. 1, 2021

The NBCC finalists for fiction include Colson Whitehead’s speedy heist thriller, “Harlem Shuffle”; Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ sprawling epic of Black family history, “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois”; “Outline” trilogy author Rachel Cusk’s new novel, “Second Place”; Sarah Hall’s pandemic dystopia, “Burntcoat”; and Joshua Cohen’s “The Netanyahus.”


Among nominees in the nonfiction categories are an acclaimed biography of Mike Nichols; Hanif Abdurraqib’s memoir-criticism hybrid, “A Little Devil in America”; Patrick Radden Keefe’s unsparing Sackler family history, “Empire of Pain”; and “How the Word is Passed,” Clint Smith’s traveling chronicle of racial reckoning.

The NBCC Awards ceremony on March 17 will be virtual, streaming on Wildbound Live. During the free public event, the critics group will also present the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award to writer and distinguished USC professor Percival Everett (previous winners include Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates and PEN America).

The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing will go to Merve Emre, with judges praising her essay about Leonora Carrington’s novel “The Hearing Trumpet,” and the inaugural Toni Morrison Achievement Award, established by NBCC last year, will honor the Cave Canem Foundation for 25 years of “cultivating and promoting Black poetic voices” and broadening the nation’s literary landscape.

The full list of finalists:

Hanif Abdurraqib, “A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance”
Jeremy Atherton Lin, “Gay Bar: Why We Went Out”
Rodrigo Garcia, “A Farewell To Gabo And Mercedes: A Son’s Memoir of Gabriel García Márquez and Mercedes Barcha”
Doireann Ní Ghríofa, “A Ghost in the Throat
Albert Samaha, “Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes”

In ‘A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes,’ filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia writes about losing both parents — and the one event his renowned father couldn’t record: his own death.

July 7, 2021

Susan Bernofsky, “Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser”
Keisha N. Blain, “Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America”
Rebecca Donner, “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler”
Mark Harris, “Mike Nichols: A Life
Alexander Nemerov, “Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York”

Melissa Febos, “Girlhood
Jenny Diski, “Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?: Essays”
Jesse McCarthy, “Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?: Essays”
Mark McGurl, “Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon”
Amia Srinivasan, “The Right To Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century”


Joshua Cohen, “The Netanyahus
Rachel Cusk, “Second Place
Sarah Hall, “Burntcoat
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
Colson Whitehead, “Harlem Shuffle

He wrote across many genres, then won two Pulitzers for historical fiction. In “Harlem Shuffle,” Colson Whitehead veers into thrilling crime fiction.

Sept. 14, 2021

Patrick Radden Keefe, “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
Joshua Prager, “The Family Roe: An American Story
Sam Quinones, “The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth
Clint Smith, “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America”
Rebecca Solnit, “Orwell’s Roses

B.K. Fischer, “Ceive
Donika Kelly, “The Renunciations: Poems”
Rajiv Mohabir, “Cutlish
Cheswayo Mphanza, “The Rinehart Frames
Diane Seuss, “Frank: Sonnets

John Leonard Prize
Ashley C. Ford, “Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir”
Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, “My Monticello: Fiction”
Torrey Peters, “Detransition, Baby
Larissa Pham, “Pop Song: Adventures in Art & Intimacy”
Anthony Veasna So, “Afterparties: Stories”
Devon Walker-Figueroa, “Philomath: Poems”

A social comedy on ‘detransitioning’ asks: Who is anyone to judge?

Jan. 6, 2021