Author who died before his work could be published nominated for NBCC award

A debut collection of stories by Anthony Veasna So, a promising writer who died before his book was published, is among this year’s nominees for the National Book Critics Circle awards.

So’s “Afterparties” collection is inspired by, among other things, his upbringing in a Cambodian-American family and features stories of intergenerational trauma caused by the Khmer Rouge.

The collection, auctioned for $300,000, has been recommended by Vanity Fair and the Wall Street Journal and features in Roxanne Gaye’s monthly book club.

Tragically though, So (pictured below) died aged 28 of an overdose before he could see his work in print. Her death shook the literature industry and Asian American writers who were eager to read her first book.

Joining So on the list of nominees are Colson Whitehead’s “Harlem Shuffle,” Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ “The Love Songs of WEB DuBois,” and Torrey Peters’ acclaimed debut novel “Detransition, Baby.”

NBCC has announced five finalists in each of six competitive categories of fiction, biography, criticism, non-fiction, autobiography and poetry. There are also six nominees in a separate category for Best First Novel.

Biographies, autobiographies and non-fiction

Mark Harris’ biography of Mike Nichols features in the biography category along with “Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser” by Susan Bernofsky, “Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America” ​​by Keisha N. Blain, “Rebecca Donner’s “All Troubles Frequent Today: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of German Resistance to Hitler” and “Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York” by Alexander Nemerov.

Rebecca Solnit’s “Orwell’s Roses,” in which she connects Orwell’s worldview to her joy in gardening and other domestic pursuits, is joined in nonfiction by “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” by Patrick Radden Keefe, “The Family Roe” by Joshua Prager. : An American Story, “The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth” by Sam Quinones and “How the Word Is Passed” by Clint Smith.

Meanwhile, self-written nominees for the autobiography include Hanif Abdurraqib’s “A Little Devil in America: Notes In Praise Of Black Performance”, Jeremy Atherton Lin’s “Gay Bar: Why Went Out”, “A Farewell To Gabo And Mercedes: A Son’s Memoir”, “A Ghost In the Throat” by Doireann Ní Ghríofa and “Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes” by Albert Samaha.

“Girlhood” by Melissa Febos and “Why didn’t you do what you were told?” by Jenny Diski. were among the review finalists, which also included “Who Will Pay Reparations On My Soul?” by Jesse McCarthy, “Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon” by Mark McGurl and “The Right To Sex” by Amia Srinivasan.

Fiction and Poetry

In fiction, besides Whitehead and Jeffers, the nominees were British author Rachel Cusk’s “Second Place”, Joshua Cohen’s “The Netanyahus” and Sarah Hall’s “Burntcoat”.

BK Fischer’s “Ceive” was a poetry finalist, along with “The Renunciations” by Donika Kelly, “Cutlish” by Rajiv Mohabir, “The Rhinehart Frames” by Cheswayo Mphanza and “frank: sonnets” by Diane Seuss.

Peters’ “Detransition, Baby” and So’s “Afterparties” were nominated for the John Leonard Award, given for best first fiction. Others in the category included “Somebody’s Daughter” by Ashley C. Ford, “My Monticello” by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, “Pop Song” by Larissa Pham, and “Philomath” by Devon Walker-Figueroa.

NBCC was founded in 1974 and includes hundreds of critics and editors from across the country.

The organization also presented three honorary awards: author-critic Merve Emre was cited for excellence in criticism, novelist Percival Everett for having “a transformative impact on book culture” and Cave Canem, recipient of the CCNB’s first Toni Morrison Award, for her “and significant contributions to book culture.”

Cave Canem is a New York-based organization that helps develop and promote black poets. He received an honorary National Book Award in 2016.