The 2016 winner of the National Book Award is Colson Whitehead for Underground Railroad. Whitehead is best known in this region for his novel, John Henry Days (2002). His winning book has been a #1 New York Times best-seller, an Oprah Book Club selection, and the winner of many other awards.
On the National Book Award Longlist (top ten) for Non-Fiction is Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen. Carrie Buck was a woman who lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, and was the subject of a Supreme Court ruling in 1927 that legalized the sterilization of "undesirables."
C. E. Morgan, a graduate of Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, and an off-and-on resident of both Berea and Charlottesville, Virginia, since graduating has won the 2016 Kirkus Prize in Fiction, a very prestigious award that carries a $50,000 stipend. She won for her second novel, Sport of Kings, set around Cincinnati, Ohio, where she grew up. Her first novel, All The Living, was set in a locale reminiscent of rural areas around Berea, Kentucky.
Truevine: Two Brothers, A Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: a True Story of the Jim Crow South by Beth Macy, is the story of two albino African-American brothers who were stolen to serve as a circus sideshow act from their home in Franklin County, Virginia. The author is a reporter for the Roanoke Times. The Kirkus prizes are given by The Kirkus Reviews, a paragon of book review publications which has served the nation for more than eighty years.
Also nominated for the Kirkus Prize in non-fiction is Blood at the Root: Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips. It is set in Forsythe County, Georgia, in the hill country north of Atlanta. This books is also a finalist for the National Book Award, listed on Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2016, a Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal given by the American Library Association, an Editor's Choice from the New York Times Book Review, and a Barnes & Noble "Discovery Great New Writers" Selection.
Also named a Best Book in 2016 by Publishers Weekly is My Father, the Pornographer by Chris Offutt who was raised by his mother and father in Rowan County, Kentucky, and now teaches at the University of Mississippi.
Listed as one of the Best of 2016 in Fiction and thus nominated for the Kirkus Prize, is Nitro Mountain by Lee Clay Johnson. It is a first novel set in the Virginia coalfields by an author who grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, and is now a Nashville musician.
Also nominated for a Kirkus Award in literature is Allegheny Front, Matthew Neill Null's first story collection, following up on his first novel, Honey from the Lion, published last year to glowing reviews. Null is a West Virginia native with an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop who now is the Writing Coordinator for the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Another nominee for the Kirkus Award in literature is Fallen Land by Taylor Brown, a Civil War novel set in the Virginia mountains. This is the second novel by Brown who grew up on the Georgia Coast, has lived in the North Carolina mountains, and now lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Ginny Gall by Charlie Smith is also a nominee for the Kirkus Award in literature. Smith is an accomplished novelist and poet who grew up in South Georgia and now has homes in New York City and Key West. This novel is set primarily in Chattanooga and deals with race and violence in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize winners given by the Southern Independent Booksellers Association include The Prince of Tides Literary Prize Winner to Ron Rash for Above the Waterfall.
Each season the Southern Independent Booksellers Association makes what it calls "Okra Picks," recently published Southern books it deems notable. The last season was Fall 2016. Picks include the fifth novel by Elizabeth Cox, a Chattanooga native who now teaches at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She was presented the Robert Penn Warren Award for her body of work by the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Her novel set in the North Carolina Mountains is A Question of Mercy.