Ned Blackhawk, a professor of history and American studies at Yale University and a Western Shoshone member, has won the 2023 National Book Award for nonfiction for “The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History,” which puts the first inhabitants of North America at the center of the development of the United States.
The 74th annual awards, presented in a live-streamed ceremony in New York on Wednesday night, carry a $10,000 prize for each winner of its five competitive categories. The fiction prize went to Justin Torres for “Blackouts,” a genre-bending novel about the erasure of queer history, while Craig Santos Perez took home the poetry prize for “from incorporated territory (åmot),” the fifth collection in a series about the history of his native Guam. Dan Santat won the young people’s literature prize for “A First Time for Everything,” a middle-grade graphic memoir about a school trip to Europe; Stênio Gardel’s “The Words That Remain,” translated from the Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato, received the award for literature in translation.
The event, hosted by LeVar Burton, with Oprah Winfrey as the keynote speaker, raised $1 million for the National Book Foundation, which provides a host of educational and public programming around literature and literacy.
This year’s awards ceremony and its leadup have been marked by a number of economic and political issues, from labor to war. In September, the National Book Foundation rescinded its host invitation to Drew Barrymore after Barrymore returned to taping her daytime talk show despite the then-ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTA strikes.
At Wednesday night’s ceremony, more than a dozen award nominees joined Torres on stage after his acceptance speech to read a statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza while also condemning antisemitism, anti-Palestinian sentiments, and Islamophobia. (Before the ceremony, one prominent sponsor, Zibby Owens, withdrew support out of concern that the anticipated statement would be antisemitic in nature.)
Blackhawk, in his acceptance speech, said he was “deeply appreciative of the spirit of generosity, the kind of collaborative support and the really intense solidarity that all of the finalists have displayed over the past two days.”