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Vanessa Veselka makes 2020 National Book Awards Longlist for Fiction

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 18, 2020

Recent Northwest Passages Book Club guest author Vanessa Veselka’s “The Great Offshore Grounds” made the 2020 National Book Award long list for fiction, the National Book Foundation announced Friday.

Other categories include nonfiction, poetry, translated literature and young people’s literature. Narrowed from a total of 388 submissions, five finalists from each category will be announced on Oct. 6; winners will be announced live at the virtual National Book Awards Ceremony on Nov. 18.

“Okay, so I’m in shock. I can’t actually feel my legs … I can’t really fathom being on this list with all of these remarkable writers,” Veselka said in separate tweets Friday. “Honor of a lifetime, without a doubt.”

Northwest Passages Book Club / The Spokesman-Review

Veselka’s first novel, “Zazen,” won the 2012 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and several pieces of her work in creative nonfiction have appeared in GQ, The Atlantic, Tin House, Zyzzyva and Best American Essays, among others.

“The Great Offshore Grounds” tells the story of sisters, Livy and Cheyenne, and their adopted brother, Essex, as they set out to collect an unusual inheritance from their estranged father.

To a large extent, the novel is about the lives of “invisible people,” Veselka explained in a Northwest Passages Virtual Event Tuesday night. Her characters are focused on their lives but, at the same time, aware that in the greater context of the “American Myth” they don’t matter. With this backdrop, the book explores how individuals begin to navigate ethics and emotions until they find where in the world they belong.

In addition to Veselka’s “The Great Offshore Grounds,” other contenders for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction include:

  • Rumaan Alam’s “Leave the World Behind” (Ecco / HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Christopher Beha’s “The Index of Self-Destructive Acts” (Tin House Books)
  • Brit Bennett “The Vanishing Half” (Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House)
  • Randall Kenan’s “If I Had Two Wings” (W. W. Norton & Company)
  • Megha Majumdar’s “A Burning” (Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House)
  • Lydia Millet’s “A Children’s Bible” (W. W. Norton & Company)
  • Deesha Philyaw’s “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” (West Virginia University Press)
  • Douglas Stuart’s “Shuggie Bain” (Grove Press / Grove Atlantic)
  • Charles Yu’s “Interior Chinatown” (Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House)

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