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National Book Award finalists announced; Fusion announces plans to unionize

Heather Ann Thompson

Finalists for the National Book Award were announced yesterday. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, and Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy are among the shortlisted books. The winner will be announced next month.

Greg Jackson, whose short story collection Prodigals earned him a spot on the US National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” list, talks to The Guardian about the critical reception of his stories, his stylistic influences, and the newfound pressure to write a novel. “It’s such a slog to write one,” Jackson said. “You just feel like you’re on an interminable vacation with family members.”

Historian David McCullough has announced plans for a book on the history of settlers in the Northwest Territory. Simon & Schuster will publish The Pioneers in 2019.

As Florida braces for Hurricane Matthew, Edwidge Danticat writes about the devastation already wrought by the storm in Haiti. Images of the aftermath show flooded roads and roofless houses, and the collapse of a bridge that connected the two halves of the country is further hindering rescue efforts. “We will continue thinking about and trying to reach our friends and loved ones in Haiti, and eventually will find ways to help and support them,” writes Danticat, “even as we, under somewhat more favorable conditions, do our best to shelter ourselves.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a staff writer at the New York Times known for her investigative pieces on racial inequality in American schools, told an audience at Columbia University that, “based on her research, reporting, and personal experience,” she’s not optimistic about improving racial equality in the US: “But what I do know is we cannot continue to go as we are.”

Employees of Fusion have announced plans to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East—the same union that represents employees of Gawker Media, a company now owned by Fusion’s parent company, Univision. BuzzFeed reports that the majority of online staff have signed union cards. In a letter explaining the decision, organizers said, “Fusion has produced an impressive body of work about how the right to organize is critical for American workers. It’s time we practice what we preach.”

At the New Republic, Alex Shephard takes an in-depth look at the Nobel Prize for Literature betting pool, which unsurprisingly is driven more by money than actual chances of winning. Shephard points out that the writers with best odds on the betting website Ladbrokes—”pasta fetishist Haruki Murakami” and “bad tweeter Joyce Carol Oates,” among others—are favorites not because they have a real chance of winning, but because people simply like to bet on them: “Let’s dispel with this fiction that the betting odds for the Nobel Prize in Literature actually mean anything. They don’t.”

Tonight at CUNY, Tim Lawrence discusses his new book about post-disco club culture, Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83.