This year’s Man Booker Prize announced that Ramez Naam, 49, will not be awarded the award for his novel “The Long Song” for a reason that may surprise many readers – it’s about the decline of black America.
Other prize winners for 2019 include Lionel Shriver, Migrant and Karen Russell. The shortlist will be announced in the U.K. March 26.
The Man Booker Prize is awarded to the best novel in English by a British or Commonwealth author. Previous prize winners include Kazuo Ishiguro, AN Wilson, E.L. Doctorow, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Ken Follett, Ian McEwan, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, Kingsley Amis, AL Kennedy, Bill Bryson, Sarah Waters, Jeet Thayil, Akhil Sharma, Anne Enright, Samanta Schweblin, Louise Glück, Henry James, Patrick Rothfuss, Julian Barnes, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Gillian Flynn, Tom McCarthy, Angela Carter, AL Kennedy, Salman Rushdie, and Kazuo Ishiguro.
An American author has not won the prize since last year’s award went to Scottish writer AL Kennedy for “How To Be Both.”
Controversy has never been far away when discussing The Man Booker Prize and Ramez Naam’s selection as the latest author to not be awarded the prize for his novel, which critics and members of the literary community claim to be concerned about racism. The final chapter of the novel documents a breakdown between two men when one man attempts to challenge the other for running a successful home.
Naam’s novel appeared on the Man Booker shortlist this year for the 2018, but was denied the prize. The story explores what life is like for a black man, father, and community after the 1967 riots in Newark, New Jersey.
Ramez, who was born in 1960, lives in Harlem, New York, and started publishing in 2001. He lives with his wife, Rosa, and their son in their home.
“The Long Song” follows American barbershop owner Dreger, as he struggles to adjust to life in the 1990s and the rise of HIV-AIDS. The novel was published in January 2018. The author told The Associated Press in an interview last year that the birth of his son and life in the workforce changed him. He had wanted to get into fiction for years, but the timing never felt right.
Then, in March 2017, his son was born.
“He needed a mother, and I was stuck,” Naam told the AP, his voice trembling with emotion. “And then things happened.”
Naam is also the author of 2013’s “Born A Crime” and 2015’s “The Life Before Her Eyes,” both which have received critical acclaim.
But in March 2018, Naam left with nothing after he won the jury award, but no prize for his novel. It was the second time in the Man Booker Prize’s history that the winner of the award never walked away with the £50,000 (almost $67,000) prize.
Critics and the literary community were quick to express their concerns for the author.
Joshua Rothkopf of The New York Times wrote, “There may not be a wider disparity of opinion for Americans than there is when it comes to The Long Song: While the book is touted as a sad, painful, and essential examination of what it means to be black in America, critics and pundits who actually read it are far more likely to make comments such as “The Long Song is just boring as hell,” or, simply, “There is nothing interesting about The Long Song.”
In an op-ed for USA Today, author Jeanette Walls explained her argument with the book.
“It follows Mr. Naam’s main character, a mediocre barber who with an e-mail file of “moves” sells promiscuous black women and trains half-comic stiffs to be “girlfriends,” ‘falling in love,’ or ‘holding their liquor’ instead of their weapons,” she wrote. “He deals mostly with hand-me-downs.
“Mr. Naam insists that this is naturalistic realism, and in some ways it is,” Walls continued. “But unfortunately, even literary realism, once it sheds its standards, can’t afford to be white, either. Also on the shortlist are “The True History of the Kelly Gang,” by Jennifer Egan, and “Us and Them,” by the late Nathanael West.
Charts from the website Bookish – through which more than two million readers will be able to read a selection of prize winners for a flat fee of $39.99 a year – show a significant decline