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Mott’s Hell of a Book beats out Doerr and Groff to win the prestigious prize

Presented online due to concerns for Covid-19, the National Book Foundation’s 2021 prize for fiction has been awarded to Jason Mott for his novel Hell of a Book.

The novel weaves the account of an unnamed Black author’s book tour through contemporary America with that of a young Black boy named Soot growing up in the South. Thrown in with this is a third character known simply as ‘The Kid’, an invisible boy who appears only to the author as the line between real and imaginary blurs in his head.

Described during the awards broadcast as “a structurally and conceptually daring examination of art, fame, family and being Black in America”, the book has been hailed as a deeply honest work that goes to the heart of racism and police violence in America, been included in numerous must-read lists, and has been longlisted for the 2022 Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the 2021 Joyce Carol Oates Prize and the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize.

“I would like to dedicate this award to all the other mad kids, to all the outsiders, the weirdos, the bullied ,” Mott said in his acceptance speech. “The ones so strange they had no choice but to be misunderstood by the world and by those around them. The ones who, in spite of this, refuse to outgrow their imagination, refuse to abandon their dreams and refuse to deny, diminish their identity, or their truth, or their loves, unlike so many others.”

Best known for his 2013 novel, The Returned, which was adapted into the television series  The Resurrection, Mott is the author of three novels and two collections of poetry. Apart from The Returned, his second novel, The Wonder of All Things, was optioned by Lionsgate in 2014, with Stanger Inside’s Cheryl Dunye set to write and direct.