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National Book Awards

Bookmark and ShareThe NYS Writers Institute's long history with the National Book Award winners

The NYS Writers Institute has hosted several National Book Award winners, finalists and longlist nominees over the years, including two of the 2017 award winners announced Wednesday, November 15, in a ceremony in New York City.

Masha Gessen won the the National Book Award for Nonfiction for The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House). She was a NYS Writers Institute Visiting Writer in 2012. During her appearance at the University at Albany, she she discussed and read from her novel: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Watch a video.

Frank Bidart won the the National Book Award for Poetry for his work, HALF-LIGHT: Collected Poems. In 2008, Bidart visited the New York State Writers Institute to read from his collection, Watching the Spring Festival. Watch a video. He was also the winner of the Paris Review's inaugural Bernard F. Conners Prize in 1981. Conners is a longtime patron of the NYS Writers Institute.

Author and journalist Frances FitzGerald, a finalist in the nonfiction category for her work, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Simon & Schuster), was a Visiting Writer in 1999. FitzGerald had previously won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for Fire In the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (1972).

Longlist nominees who have been in our Visiting Writer Series: Jennifer Egan, (2008), Kevin Young (2005), Marie Howe (2008), Jason Reynolds (2015). Judges who have been in our series: novelist Dave Eggers (2004), and poets Nick Flynn (2004), Gregory Pardlo, (2017), and Monica Youn (2008).

More information on the 2017 winners.

National Book Award winners 2017

Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward Sing, Unburied, Sing(Scribner / Simon & Schuster) Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University. She is the author of the novels Where the Lines Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, which won the 2011 National Book Award. She is also the editor of the anthology The Fire This Time and the author of the memoir Men We Reaped, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2016, the American Academy of Arts and Letters selected Ward for the Strauss Living Award.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.


Masha Gessen, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed RussiaMasha Gessen

(Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House) Hailed for her “fearless indictment of the most powerful man in Russia” (The Wall Street Journal), award-winning journalist Masha Gessen is unparalleled in her understanding of the events and forces that have wracked her native country in recent times. In The Future Is History, she follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own—as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings.

Gessen is a Russian-American journalist and the author of several books, including The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Carnegie Fellowship, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Slate, Vanity Fair, and many other publications. A longtime resident of Moscow, Gessen now lives in New York.

Frank Bidart, Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016
Frank Bidard
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers) Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. His pages represent the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it�s that of the child murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West, the tormented genius Vaslav Nijinsky, or the poet�s own. And in that embodiment is a transgressive empathy, one that recognizes our wild appetites, the monsters, the misfits, the misunderstood among us, and inside of us. Few writers have so willingly ventured to the dark places of the human psyche, and allowed themselves to be stripped bare on the page with such candor and vulnerability. Over the past half century, Bidart has done nothing less than invent a poetics commensurate with the chaos and hunger of our experience.

Frank Bidart is the author of Metaphysical Dog, Watching the Spring Festival, Star Dust, Desire, and In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90. He has won many prizes, including the Wallace Stevens Award, the 2007 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He teaches at Wellesley College and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Robin Benway, Far from the Tree

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway(From HarperTeen / HarperCollinsPublishers) Robin Benway is the acclaimed author of Emmy & Oliver, the Also Known As series, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June, and Audrey, Wait! Benway’s books have been published in sixteen languages, won international awards, and been bestsellers in several countries. Formerly a bookseller and book publicist, she lives in Los Angeles.

About the book: Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including� Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she�s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family�s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can�t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs. And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he�s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can�t hurt anyone but him.