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)

Robin Kelley Discusses Abolitionist Movement in Interview

Historian and UCLA professor of African American studies Robin Kelley is a recipient of the American Book Award. He discusses the potential for change in the current political moment with The Intercept:


Ishmael Reed Dispels Myths About Juneteenth and Civil War Era

Reed examines the history of the recently sensationalized holiday in an opinion piece in The San Francisco Chronicle:


Greil Marcus and Justin Desmangles to Discuss Latest Book

Greil Marcus will discuss with the subject of his new book Under the Red White and Blue: Patriotism, Disenchantment and the Stubborn Myth of the Great Gatsby published by Yale University Press. He will be interviewed by the Before Columbus Foundation’s Chair, Justin Desmangles this coming Thursday, June 18, at 6pm PST/ 9pm EST. The event will be hosted online by City Lights Booksellers. See the weblink below for more information:


Robin D.G. Kelley Discusses American Uprisings with Amy Goodman

Historian and UCLA professor of African American studies Robin Kelley is a recipient of the American Book Award.

From Democracy Now:


Natalie Diaz Nominated for Forward Poetry Prize

Natalie Diaz is a MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient and former professional basketball player. When My Brother Was an Aztec received the American Book Award in 2013. Her collection, Postcolonial Love Poem, has made the shortlist for the prestigious Forward prize for best collection. From the Guardian:


Ishmael Reed Discusses Black Lives Matter with Writer’s Discussion Panel

Frank B. Wilderson

Frank Wilderson III and Justin Desmangles discuss Frank’s new book, Afropessimism, published by Norton/Liveright. Event hosted by City Lights Bookstore’s Josiah Luis Alderete and originally broadcast via Zoom on May 28th, 2020. Wilderson’s book Incognegro:
A Memoir of Exile & Apartheid
 received the American Book Award in 2008.

Joy Harjo Discusses Poetry, Fear, Spirituality in Interview

The United States Poet Laureate received the American Book Award in 2013 for Crazy Brave. From the New York Times:

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: