All week long, Paperback Paris will be uncovering the longlists for the 2018 National Book Awards.
This year’s longlistees for the coveted nonfiction prize include Carol Anderson, Colin G. Calloway, Steve Coll, Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple, Victoria Johnson, David Quammen, Sarah Smarsh, Rebecca Solnit, Jeffery C. Stewart, and Adam Winkler.
Judges for the category include Annette Gordon-Reed (Chair), Sarah Manguso, Andrés Reséndez, Rachel Cass, and John Freeman.
See which books made the cut, below, and come back tomorrow for the 2018 NBA longlist for Nonfiction.
Be sure to tune back on October 10, when the shortlists will be announced.
Any title on this list can be purchased by clicking its cover.
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote
In her New York Times bestseller White Rage, Carol Anderson laid bare an insidious history of policies that have systematically impeded black progress in America, from 1865 to our combustible present. With One Person, No Vote, she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice.
Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2018 midterm elections.
Colin G. Calloway, The Indian World of George Washington
In this sweeping new biography, Calloway uses the prism of Washington’s life to bring focus to the great Native leaders of his time―Shingas, Tanaghrisson, Bloody Fellow, Joseph Brant, Red Jacket, Little Turtle―and the tribes they represented: the Iroquois Confederacy, Lenape, Miami, Creek, Delaware; in the process, he returns them to their rightful place in the story of America’s founding. The Indian World of George Washington spans decades of Native American leaders’ interaction with Washington, from his early days as surveyor of Indian lands, to his military career against both the French and the British, to his presidency, when he dealt with Native Americans as a head of state would with a foreign power, using every means of diplomacy and persuasion to fulfill the new republic’s destiny by appropriating their land. By the end of his life, Washington knew more than anyone else in America about the frontier and its significance to the future of his country.
The Indian World of George Washington offers a fresh portrait of the most revered American and the Native Americans whose story has been only partially told. Calloway’s biography invites us to look again at the story of America’s beginnings and see the country in a whole new light.
Steve Coll, Directorate S
Resuming the narrative of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars, bestselling author Steve Coll tells for the first time the epic and enthralling story of America’s intelligence, military, and diplomatic efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 9/11.
Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple, Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War
A bracingly immediate memoir by a young man coming of age during the Syrian war, Brothers of the Gun is an intimate lens on the century’s bloodiest conflict and a profound meditation on kinship, home, and freedom.
Victoria Johnson, American Eden: David Hosack, Botany and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic
On a clear morning in July 1804, Alexander Hamilton stepped onto a boat at the edge of the Hudson River. He was bound for a New Jersey dueling ground to settle his bitter dispute with Aaron Burr. Hamilton took just two men with him: his “second” for the duel, and Dr. David Hosack.
As historian Victoria Johnson reveals in her groundbreaking biography, Hosack was one of the few points the duelists did agree on. Summoned that morning because of his role as the beloved Hamilton family doctor, he was also a close friend of Burr. A brilliant surgeon and a world-class botanist, Hosack—who until now has been lost in the fog of history—was a pioneering thinker who shaped a young nation.
David Quammen, The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life
In The Tangled Tree, David Quammen, “one of that rare breed of science journalists who blends exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling” (Nature), chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them—such as Carl Woese, the most important little-known biologist of the twentieth century; Lynn Margulis, the notorious maverick whose wild ideas about “mosaic” creatures proved to be true; and Tsutomu Wantanabe, who discovered that the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a direct result of horizontal gene transfer, bringing the deep study of genome histories to bear on a global crisis in public health.
Sarah Smarsh, Heartland
During Sarah Smarsh’s turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, the forces of cyclical poverty and the country’s changing economic policies solidified her family’s place among the working poor. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves, Smarsh challenges us to look more closely at the class divide in our country and examine the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less. Her personal history affirms the corrosive impact intergenerational poverty can have on individuals, families, and communities, and she explores this idea as lived experience, metaphor, and level of consciousness.
Rebecca Solnit, Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises
In this powerful and wide-ranging collection of essays, Solnit turns her attention to the war at home. This is a war, she says, “with so many casualties that we should call it by its true name, this war with so many dead by police, by violent ex-husbands and partners and lovers, by people pursuing power and profit at the point of a gun or just shooting first and figuring out who they hit later.” To get to the root of these American crises, she contends that “to acknowledge this state of war is to admit the need for peace,” countering the despair of our age with a dose of solidarity, creativity, and hope.
Jeffrey C. Stewart, The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke
In The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally. He narrates the education of Locke, including his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar and earning a PhD in philosophy at Harvard University, and his long career as a professor at Howard University. Locke also received a cosmopolitan, aesthetic education through his travels in continental Europe, where he came to appreciate the beauty of art and experienced a freedom unknown to him in the United States. And yet he became most closely associated with the flowering of Black culture in Jazz Age America and his promotion of the literary and artistic work of African Americans as the quintessential creations of American modernism. In the process he looked to Africa to find the proud and beautiful roots of the race. Shifting the discussion of race from politics and economics to the arts, he helped establish the idea that Black urban communities could be crucibles of creativity. Stewart explores both Locke’s professional and private life, including his relationships with his mother, his friends, and his white patrons, as well as his lifelong search for love as a gay man.
Adam Winkler, We the Corporations
We the Corporations chronicles the astonishing story of one of the most successful yet least well-known “civil rights movements” in American history. Hardly oppressed like women and minorities, business corporations, too, have fought since the nation’s earliest days to gain equal rights under the Constitution—and today have nearly all the same rights as ordinary people.
Exposing the historical origins of Citizens United and Hobby Lobby, Adam Winkler explains how those controversial Supreme Court decisions extending free speech and religious liberty to corporations were the capstone of a centuries-long struggle over corporate personhood and constitutional protections for business. Beginning his account in the colonial era, Winkler reveals the profound influence corporations had on the birth of democracy and on the shape of the Constitution itself. Once the Constitution was ratified, corporations quickly sought to gain the rights it guaranteed. The first Supreme Court case on the rights of corporations was decided in 1809, a half-century before the first comparable cases on the rights of African Americans or women. Ever since, corporations have waged a persistent and remarkably fruitful campaign to win an ever-greater share of individual rights.
Remarks on the finalists, courtesy of the National Book Foundation: Colin G. Calloway’s The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation recounts the relationship between Native leaders and our first president, aiming to illustrate the ways in which Washington’s interests were directly tied to the destruction of Native lands and rights, and examining the influence of the country’s first inhabitants on the trajectory of one of the most famous figures in American history. American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic by Victoria Johnson sheds light on the life and work of David Hosack, a renowned surgeon at the turn of the 19th century, whose passion for botany would lead him toward groundbreaking pharmaceutical research, the gathering of unmatched collections of flora, and the pioneering of medical practices that took inspiration and direction from the natural world, ultimately impacting the medical and botanical worlds for many years to come. Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth details Smarsh’s childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 90s, addressing issues of generational poverty, class divides, and identity through the lens of first-hand experience. Jeffrey C. Stewart’s The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke provides a granularly detailed account of the life of the often overlooked Alain Locke, a Harvard-educated philosopher and scholar who was one of the key architects of the Harlem Renaissance. The work explores his years of education, his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar, his role as a champion of African American art in the Jazz Age, his complex personal life, and his work and contributions in helping lay the groundwork for contemporary African American studies. In We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights, Adam Winkler traces corporations’ long history of influence in the U.S., and the ways in which they have shaped the nation and politics to create a system in which they have rights that closely resemble the rights of individuals.