Each year, the National Book Critics Circle presents awards for the finest books published in English in six categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Poetry, and Criticism. Three of the six winning authors this year are Black women. Each has some ties to higher education.
Edwidge Danticat, the Haitian-American writer who has taught creative writing at New York University and the University of Miami, received the award in the fiction category for her book Everything Inside (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019). The book is a collection of eight short stories. A native of Haiti, Danticat immigrated to Brooklyn at the age of 12. She is a graduate of Barnard College in New York City, where she majored in French literature. She holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Brown University. Danticat published her first novel – Breath, Eyes Memory – in 1994. She has published a number of novels, short story collections, young adult novels, and a memoir.
Saidiya Hartman is a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University in New York City. She won the National Book Critics Circle Award in the criticism category for her book Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (W.W. Norton & Co., 2019). According to the award committee, the book “is about the radical sexualities and the aesthetics of waywardness that young black women introduced into early twentieth-century American life.” Professor Hartman’s major fields of interest are African American and American literature and cultural history, slavery, law and literature, and performance studies. She is the author of Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007). Dr. Hartman is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She holds a Ph.D. from Yale University. Professor Hartman was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2019.
Morgan Parker won in the poetry category for her book Magical Negro (Tin House Press, 2019). Her poems deal with how the Black female body moves through the world and how the Black body is seen. The award committee noted that “within the heaviness of her subject matter — because any authentic work that attempts to engage ethically with blackness will hold a heaviness due to the history and continued presence of anti-Black violence — there is a lightness that permeates Parker’s work. In Parker’s language we see a joy that is at times pleasure—and at other times just plain fun — that is, in turn, a joy to read.” Parker holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and creative writing from Columbia University and a master of fine arts degree in poetry from New York University.