2011 national book award

for those of us brown kids who write because there’s no other way we know; regardless if our words ever see the light of day or reach an audience; whether we ever see a dime for the countless lifetimes we pour into the writing of poems, plays and stories; because we all come from a legacy that weights our voices no matter what … let this feed your hearts, however weary or new.


With a look back at some of the National Book Award Honored books that celebrate the heroes and heroines of the Civil Rights movement. 

(From top, left to right)

1. Ralph EllisonArnold Rampersad (2007 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)

2. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward JusticePhillip Hoose (2009, National Book Award Winner, Young People’s Literature)

3. Head Off & SplitNikki Finney (2011 National Book Award Winner, Poetry)

4. Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, John D'Emilio (2003 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)

5.  W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race: 1868-1919, David Levering Lewis (1993 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)

6. One with Others, C.D. Wright (2010 National Book Award Finalist, Poetry)

7. Malcom X: A Life of ReinventionManning Marable (2011 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)

8. Carver: A Life in PoemsMarilyn Nelson (2001 National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Literature)

9. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil RightsSteve Sheinkin (2014 National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Literature)

10. At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968Taylor Branch (2006 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)

"Card Tricks" by James Hannaham

Recommended by Jennifer Egan

Issue No. 101


I’ll confess that when my friend James Hannaham first mentioned that he was writing fiction in the form of art gallery plaques, my reaction was selfish: I wished I’d thought of it. The idea is so clearly excellent, involving the use of a non-literary genre that is textual, but also rich with its own conventions and dramatic possibilities. What more could a fiction writer possibly want?

But a manifestly great idea can be dangerous—as likely to smother as to sustain the fiction we beckon into its midst…

Read the full foreward and see all the images on Electric Literature.

About the Author

James Hannaham, author of the novel God Says No (McSweeney’s), has published stories in One Story, Fence, Open City, The Literary Review, Story Quarterly, and BOMB. For a long time he has contributed to the Village Voice and other publications. He was a co-founder of the performance group Elevator Repair Service and worked with them from 1992–2002. More recently he has exhibited text-based visual art at Samsøn Projects, Rosalux Gallery, The Center for Emerging Visual Artists, and 490 Atlantic. His second novel, Delicious Foods, will appear from Little, Brown in 2015. He teaches creative writing at The Pratt Institute and Columbia University.

About the Guest Editor

Jennifer Egan was born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco. She is the author of The Invisible Circus, a novel which became a feature film starring Cameron Diaz in 2001, Look at Me, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2001, Emerald City and Other Stories and the bestselling The Keep. Her most recent novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the LA Times Book Prize. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers, Granta, McSweeney’s and other magazines. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library. Her non-fiction articles appear frequently in the New York Times Magazine. Her 2002 cover story on homeless children received the Carroll Kowal Journalism Award, and “The Bipolar Kid” received a 2009 NAMI Outstanding Media Award for Science and Health Reporting from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

About Electric Literature

Electric Literature is an independent publisher working to ensure that literature remains a vibrant presence in popular culture. Electric Literature’s weekly fiction magazine, Recommended Reading, invites established authors, indie presses, and literary magazines to recommended great fiction. Once a month we feature our own recommendation of original, previously unpublished fiction, accompanied by a Single Sentence Animation. Single Sentence Animations are creative collaborations: the author chooses a favorite sentence and we commission an artist to interpret it. Stay connected with us through our eNewsletter (where you can win weekly prizes), Facebook, and Twitter, and find previous Electric Literature picks in the Recommended Reading archives.

Photographs by Ian Douglas.

“Card Tricks” copyright James Hannaham 2014.

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