Justin Torres won for his novel Blackouts.
Photo: Getty Images
After a scabbing controversy led to a host shake-up and sponsors withdrew their support of the event after taking issue with a planned cease-fire announcement, the National Book Awards shared the 2023 winners on November 15. Justin Torres’s Blackouts, an exploration of forgotten queer histories and storytelling, won the award for fiction. During his acceptance speech at the National Book Awards ceremony on Wednesday night, the author took the stage with other finalists to call for a cease-fire in Gaza. “On behalf of the finalists, we oppose the ongoing bombardment of Gaza and call for a humanitarian cease-fire to address the urgent humanitarian needs of Palestinian civilians, particularly children,” said Temple Folk author and finalist Aaliyah Bilal, together with more than a dozen peers. “We oppose antisemitism and anti-Palestinian sentiment and Islamophobia equally. Accepting the human dignity of all parties, knowing that further bloodshed does nothing to secure lasting peace in the region. Thank you.”
The LeVar Burton–hosted ceremony also awarded Ned Blackhawk a prize in nonfiction for his book The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History, a comprehensive history of the United States that painstakingly recognizes that Native Americans are key to understanding America. Elsewhere in the evening, Burton and special guest Oprah Winfrey pushed back against the rising tide of right-wing book bans across the country. “Are there any Moms for Liberty in the house?” asked Burton, referring to the conservative group calling for homophobic and anti-Black bans. “No? Good. Then hands will not need to be thrown tonight,” he quipped.
Below, the full list of National Book Award winners.
Justin Torres, Blackouts
Ned Blackhawk, The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History
Craig Santos Perez, from unincorporated territory [åmot]
Stênio Gardel, The Words That Remain
Translated from the Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato
Young People’s Literature
Dan Santat, A First Time for Everything