The National Book Critics Circle Is Putting Its Awards on Hold

They have some housekeeping to attend to

The National Book Critics Circle would like a moment to pull itself together.
Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

You may recall that the National Book Critics Circle has recently imploded. Now, after a dramatic week or so in which 15 of the organization’s 24 board members have resigned over a dispute about the board’s Black Lives Matter message, the National Book Critics Circle has ended up calling off its prestigious annual awards ceremony until things are sorted out.

“We hope to be in a position to present the NBCC awards for calendar year 2020,” the board wrote in a statement. “However, we will put aside all reading and deliberation in order to focus on fulfilling and exceeding the action items in our Anti-Racism Pledge and Action Plan.”

In case you missed it, the trouble began last week when the National Book Critics Circle, like many organizations in the United States in recent weeks, tried to draft a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Board members disagreed as to just how much culpability the NBCC should accept in perpetuating the overwhelmingly white history of the publishing industry. The circle began to rapidly deteriorate after Ugandan-born board member and author Hope Wabuke tweeted screenshots of the dispute along with her resignation from the board, which was followed by several other resignations.

“The National Book Critics Circle has reached a critical point in our 46-year history,” remaining board members wrote in the statement, posted Thursday. “We had intended to make a simple, yet powerful statement that Black Lives Matter. Recent events at the organization have drawn attention away from that clear and powerful statement. We need to refocus our public work on that belief, but first must undertake some difficult internal work.”

Along with putting the annual awards on hold, that “difficult internal work” will reportedly include reaching out to past and current members for “ideas on how we move forward as an organization and how the NBCC can best support marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ writers, writers from black, indigenous, and other communities of color, and writers of all ages and abilities,” as well as encouraging black, indigenous and people of color to run for board positions.

“Throughout this process of change we commit to centering BIPOC voices in all of our deliberations,” the statement read.

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