2019 American Book Award Winners Announced

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The Raymond House • 655 -13th Street • Suite 302 • Oakland, California 94612

August 19, 2019


Contact: Justin Desmangles, 916-425-7916

The Before Columbus Foundation announces the

Winners of the Fortieth Annual


Ceremonies, November 1, 2019, 1:00–4:00 p.m.

Oakland, CA—The Before Columbus Foundation announces the Winners of the Fortieth Annual AMERICAN BOOK AWARDS. The 2019 American Book Award winners will be formally recognized on Friday, November 1, 2019, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA. This event is open to the public.

The American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community. The purpose of the awards is to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. There are no categories, no nominees, and therefore no losers. The award winners range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized authors and first works. There are no quotas for diversity, the winners list simply reflects it as a natural process. The Before Columbus Foundation views American culture as inclusive and has always considered the term “multicultural” to be not a description of various categories, groups, or “special interests,” but rather as the definition of all of American literature. The Awards are not bestowed by an industry organization, but rather are a writers’ award given by other writers.

The 2019 American Book Award Winners are:

Frank Abe, Greg Robinson, and Floyd Cheung (editors)

John Okada: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy

(University of Washington Press)

May-lee Chai

Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories



Louise DeSalvo

The House of Early Sorrows: A Memoir in Essays

(Fordham University Press)

Heid E. Erdrich (editor)

New Poets of Native Nations

(Graywolf Press)

Ángel García

Teeth Never Sleep: Poems

(University of Arkansas Press)

Tommy Orange

There There: A Novel


Halifu Osumare

Dancing in Blackness: A Memoir

(University Press of Florida)

Christopher Patton

Unlikeness Is Us: Fourteen from the Exeter Book

(Gaspereau Press)

Mark Sarvas

Memento Park: A Novel

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Jeffrey C. Stewart

The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke

(Oxford University Press)

William T. Vollmann

Carbon Ideologies: Volume I, No Immediate Danger, Volume II, No Good Alternative


G. Willow Wilson (author), Nico Leon (illustrator)

Ms. Marvel Vol. 9: Teenage Wasteland


Lifetime Achievement Award:

Nathan Hare

Editor/Publisher Award:

UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center

Oral Literature Award:

Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa)

John Okada Featured in Documentary

The story of John Okada’s wartime work in the U.S. Military Intelligence Service is now airing nationwide in a new film on PBS. The filmmakers of The Registry, Bill Kubota and Steve Ozone, flew out from Detroit seven years ago to speak with me about the author of No-No Boy. John Okada: The Life and Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy received the American Book Award in 2019.

New Yorker Profiles Classic Anthology of Asian-American Writing

The New Yorker has published a retrospective article to mark the publishing of the latest edition of Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Asian American Writers, including details of Shawn Wong and Ishmael Reed’s early involvement in the development of the anthology:


Ishmael Reed Addresses Tokenism In Literature

Published by the Amsterdam News, Reed’s latest article details his experiences and perspectives working in multicultural arts circles.

Re-Imagining the Black Body: Race, Memory, and the Excavation of Freedom Now

Author, activist, Prof. Frank B. Wilderson III (U.C. Irvine), and broadcast journalist, Justin Desmangles (Chairman, Before Columbus Foundation), discuss in-depth a range of critical issues facing Black America and the African Diaspora.

Library of Congress interviews Joy Harjo

Harjo’s Crazy Brave received the American Book Award in 2013. She sits on the Before Columbus Foundation’s Board of Directors. The poet laureate answers questions about the role of poetry in current social crisis:


Profiles of UC Irvine Professor Frank B Wilderson

He is professor of Drama and African American studies at the University of California, Irvine. His book Incognegro:
A Memoir of Exile & Apartheid
received the American Book Award in 2008. Highlights of his work at UC Irvine can be read below:


His research profiled by Orange Coast:


New York Times interviews Frank B. Wilderson

Wilderson answers some questions about his latest book Afropessimism.
He is professor of Drama and African American studies at the University of California, Irvine. His book Incognegro:
A Memoir of Exile & Apartheid
received the American Book Award in 2008.

Marlon James receives Inaugural Ray Bradbury Prize

Marlon James’ fourth novel, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the winner of The LA Times’ inaugural Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, is his first foray into fantasy. James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings received the American Book Award in 2015. He now sits on the Board of Directors for the Before Columbus Foundation.


The Controversial Origin of Asian-American Studies

Professor of English at University of Oregon Tara Fickle’s foreword to the latest edition of Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Asian American Writers has been made available to read online. The anthology is credited as one of the founding texts of Asian American studies as an academic field, and includes the work of Shawn Wong, a founding member of the Before Columbus Foundation.

From The Paris Review:

Tommy J. Curry Receives Josiah Royce Prize

The Josiah Royce Prize in American Idealist Thought is to be awarded not more than once every five years for a major study in Idealism or other aspects of Roycean thought. Dr. Tommy J. Curry received the 2020 Josiah Royce Prize for his book Another white Man’s Burden: Josiah Royce’s Quest for a Philosophy of white Racial Empire.

Curry’s The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood received the American Book Award in 2018.