Though relatively modest in population, Louisiana yields more than its share of celebrated food and music. The same is true when it comes to literature, too.
Or so we were reminded by the recent news that not one, but three titles with roots in Louisiana have been nominated for a 2019 National Book Award, one of the most coveted prizes in American letters.
One of the Louisiana-inspired nominees is “The Yellow House,” Sarah M. Broom’s acclaimed memoir of growing up in New Orleans East. It’s gotten rave reviews from across the country, including a shout-out from Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak, who worked as a crime reporter at The Times-Picayune in the 1990s. Dvorak hails Broom’s book as “a delightful, deft, familiar — and ambitious — foray into family dynamics and working-class gusto, a relatable story of the townies in a city overrun by, and dependent upon, tourists.”
Another Louisiana-grounded title getting a National Book Award nomination is “Solitary,” a memoir by Albert Woodfox, written with Leslie George, that chronicles the four decades he spent in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Broom and Woodfox will appear at the Louisiana Book Festival at Baton Rouge's State Library on Nov. 2.
Shreveport native and former New Orleans resident Jericho Brown got a National Book Award nomination for his poetry book, "The Tradition."
National Book Award winners will be announced in November. Regardless of who wins, the fact that two Louisiana-based titles were nominated underscores the state’s outsized influence on American culture. For those of us who live here, it’s a reality that’s easy to overlook.