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Roanoke News

Posted on: August 8, 2019

National Book Award Winners to Speak at Melrose Branch Library

National Book Award winners Ibram X. Kendi and Justin Phillip Reed will be coming to Roanoke on Thursday, Aug. 29, to speak at an event titled “Indecent Histories” at the new Melrose Branch Library. This event is part of “NBF Presents” programming, made possible by a three-year $900,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These acclaimed writers will discuss histories of inequity and discrimination, contemporary identity, and what community looks like for writers and people of color. The event will be moderated by Douglas Jackson, founder of Book City Roanoke, and will begin at 6:30 p.m. A limited number of free titles will be available for attendees.

“The Roanoke Public Libraries are honored to host these two acclaimed authors for this important conversation,” said Sheila S. Umberger, Director of the Roanoke Public Libraries. “This 'NBF Presents' event is a continuation of the important work the libraries are already doing to engage, educate, and empower the community through literature and dialogue.”

Ibram X. Kendi is the Founding Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. He is Professor of History and International Relations, and an Ideas Columnist at The Atlantic. His second book, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a New York Times Best Seller. At 34 years old, he was the youngest ever winner of the NBA for Nonfiction. “Stamped from the Beginning” was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and it was nominated for a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and a NAACP Image Award. Kendi has published essays in numerous periodicals, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. His next book, “How To Be An Antiracist,” will be published on Aug. 13.

Justin Phillip Reed is the winner of the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry for “Indecency,” which the Library Journal called “one-of-a-kind brilliant.” The National Book Award Poetry jury celebrated the book as “political and personal, tender, daring, and insightful.” His poetry appears in African American Review, Best American Essays, Callaloo, The Kenyon Review, Obsidian, and elsewhere.

“NBF Presents,” a moniker under which all of the Foundation’s public programs fall, will launch its summer event series with libraries that have also served as local partners for NBF’s Book Rich Environments program.  As part of "NBF Presents: Summer with the National Book Awards," the Foundation is creating new relationships with these partners, reaching an even wider swath of readers in their communities by sending National Book Awards–honored authors to library branches in Roanoke, as well as Akron, Ohio; Allen County, Ind.; New Bedford, Mass.; and Sarasota, Fla.  Information about all "NBF Presents" events is available on the Foundation’s website.

The mission of the National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, is to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture.  The National Book Awards, established in 1950, is one of the nation's most prestigious literary prizes and has a stellar record of identifying and rewarding quality writing. Many previous Winners of the National Book Awards are now firmly established in the canon of American literature.  The Awards currently recognize books in five categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature.

The new Melrose Branch Library opened on July 22 after a $4 million construction project. The new 15,000-square-foot space is now the second largest library in the City of Roanoke, after the Main Library downtown. It features an expanded collection, computer labs, meeting spaces, dedicated children’s and teens’ areas, and a science lab.

This event is presented in partnership with BOOK CITY Roanoke. Led by Douglas Jackson, BOOK CITY Roanoke is an ongoing exploration of books, literary life, and literacy in the Roanoke region with a central organizing question: How can our love of literature, our commitment to literacy, and a focus on the written word foster greater equity and a more engaged community?

For more information, contact Marissa Blankinship at (540) 853-5842 or email her at marissa.blankinship@roanokeva.gov.

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