Two writers with local connections nominated for National Book Awards


Posted: 10/18/2021 19:05:09 PM

Two writers with local connections are finalists for the National Book Award – one of them for the third time.

Novelist and short story writer Lauren Groff, who graduated from Amherst College in 2001, was nominated for her novel “The Matrix”, a story set in 12th century Europe and based in part on an actual but mysterious medieval author, Marie from France, a young woman expelled from the French royal court and banished to England.

There, Mary is expected to become the new prioress of a ruined abbey made up of sick and hungry nuns. But Mary ends up making it a self-sufficient commune for women, challenging the Catholic Church and the Patriarchal Order in what NPR calls “an inspiring novel that truly demonstrates the power women wield, regardless of the era.” There is brotherhood, love, war, sex.

“Transcendent prose and vividly depicted settings bring historical events to life, from the crusades to the papal ban of 1208,” writes Publishers Weekly. “Groff has outdone herself with an accomplishment as radiant as the visions of Mary.”

Groff, who now lives in Florida, has written six fiction books and has been nominated for numerous awards, including two previous National Book Awards. She also won the Story Prize, the ABA Indies’ Choice Award and the Grand Prix de l’Héroine in France.

She was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Prize for her 2015 novel “Fates and Furies” (former US President Barack Obama called it his favorite book this year) and a finalist for a National Book Award for its 2018 “Florida” short story collection.

Nominated for a National Book Award in Poetry is English professor UMass Amherst Martín Espada, whose most recent collection is “Floaters”, which the Boston Globe calls “[a] work of challenge laden with grace “which generates” blows of shining and hard wisdom “.

“Floaters” takes its name, as the Gazette wrote in an article earlier this year, from a term some US Border Patrol agents use to describe migrants who drown trying to cross the Rio Grande from Mexico in the United States.

In her poems, Espada takes a critical look at the anti-immigrant vitriol that has become mainstream in recent years, while drawing on her own family history and personal observation of ideas.

Publishers Weekly calls’ Floaters’ unique for ‘the way it captures the weary voice of the world of a poet and political activist who not only calls for change, but offers a sense of the long and hard. difficult struggle for justice ”.

Espada has won numerous awards for his work, including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a $ 100,000 lifetime scholarship, and he was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his 2008 collection “The Republic of Poetry” .

The winners of the National Book Award will be announced on November 17 at an online ceremony. More details are available at

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at [email protected]


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