Ta-Nehisi Coates Wins National Book Award for “Between the World and Me”

The cultural critic caps 2015 with a big victory.

Ta-Nehisi Coates‘s Between the World and Me, a meditation on the black experience that takes the form of a letter to the author’s son, has won the National Book Award for nonfiction.

Short story writer Adam Johnson won the award for fiction for his collection Fortune Smiles. Robin Coste Lewis won the poetry award for her debut, Voyage of the Sable Venus, while Neal Shusterman won the young people’s literature award for his novel Challenger Deep.

Coates is a writer for The Atlantic, who published his two recent thought-provoking cover stories: 2014’s “The Case for Reparations” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” Coates’s ability to communicate complex systemic and personal racial issues to a mainstream audience without watering them down or blunting his message also earned him a MacArthur Genius Grant earlier this year.

Coates dedicated the National Book Award to Prince Jones, a friend of his from college who was killed by police while the two were enrolled at Howard University. Jones’s death gives Between the World and Me much of its thematic structure, and the event was instrumental in Coates’s development as a thinker. “Prince Jones was killed because he was mistaken for a criminal. And Prince Jones was mistaken for a criminal because at the heart of our country is the notion that we are okay with the presumption that black people somehow have an angle, somehow have a predisposition toward criminality,” Coates said in his speech.

You can watch the video of Coates accepting the award below, via Vulture.

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