Annal: 1998 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1998.

Book:Slaves in the Family

Slaves in the Family

Edward Ball

First-time author and award-winning journalist Edward Ball confronts the legacy of his family’s slave-owning past, uncovering the story of the people, both black and white, who lived and worked on the Balls’ South Carolina plantations. It is an unprecedented family record that reveals how the painful legacy of slavery continues to endure in America’s collective memory and experience.

Author Edward Ball, a descendant of one of the largest slave-owning families in the South, discovered that his ancestors owned 25 rice plantations, worked by nearly 4,000 slaves. In Slaves in the Family, he confronts his past—scouring family archives, parish records, telephone directories, and historical-society collections. Ball’s fact-finding took him slogging not only down the back roads of Carolina’s low country but also to West Africa to meet the descendants of the traders who sold slaves…[more]

Book:All on Fire

All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery

Henry Mayer

In All on Fire, William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) emerges as an American hero, arguably on par with Abraham Lincoln, who forced the nation to confront the explosive issue of slavery.

Mayer maintains that Garrison, a self-made man of scanty formal education who founded and edited the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, not only served as the catalyst for the abolition of slavery, but inspired two generations of activists in civil rights and the women’s movement.

Through Garrison, tragically torn between pacifism and abolitionist advocacy, we also meet a rich pageant of great 19th-century historical figures, including Frederick Douglass, John Quincy Adams,and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Mayer’s consequential biography will be read for generations to come.

Book:Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

Harold Bloom

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is the culmination of Harold Bloom’s life’s work in reading, writing about, and teaching Shakespeare. It is his passionate and convincing analysis of the way in which Shakespeare not merely represented human nature as we know it today, but actually created it: before Shakespeare, there was characterization; after Shakespeare, there was character, men and women with highly individual personalities—Hamlet, Falstaff, Iago, Cleopatra, Macbeth, Rosalind, and Lear, among them. In making his argument, Bloom leads us through a brilliant and comprehensive reading of every one of Shakespeare’s plays.

According to a New York Times report on Shakespeare last year, “more people are watching him, reading him, and studying him than ever before.” Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is a landmark contribution, a book that will be…[more]

Book:A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage

A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage

Beth Kephart

One of those rare occasions when a stunning literary talent and an important subject come together. As many as one in five children face the challenge of growing up with a behavioral disorder. For Beth Kephart’s son, it was “pervasive developmental disorder”—a broad spectrum of difficulties, including autistic features. As the author and her husband discover, all it really means is that their son Jeremy is “different . . . different in a million wonderful ways, and also different in ways that need our help.” In intimate, incandescent prose, Beth Kephart shares the painful and inspiring experience of loving a child whose “special needs” bring tremendous frustration and incalculable rewards. With the help of passionate parental involvement and the kindness of a few open hearts, Jeremy slowly re-emerges from a self-imposed silence broken only by the echoing of others’ words, obsessive play rituals, pacing and running in circles, and a sheer terror of strangers. Triumphantly, he begins to engage the…[more]

Book:There Once Was a World

There Once Was a World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok

Yaffa Eliach

Two million visitors a year enter the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where 1,600 photographs from the shtetl of Eishyshok constitute what many consider to be the most moving exhibit in the museum—the Tower of Life. Eliach’s nine-century saga of Eastern European Jewish life is richer and fuller than any ever written. Her research took her from family attics on six continents to state archives no scholar had seen since the start of the Cold War. Her research on family life, for example, shows that the “world of our fathers” was actually a world in which all the affairs of daily life were run by mothers. Her profound understanding of medieval history illuminates her description of early Lithuania, the last pagan country in Europe and the only one where Jews lived on equal terms with the rest of the population. Access to family letters and memorabilia and interviews with shtetl survivors gave her startling insight into one of history’s most troubling questions: Why were the Jews so blind to the Nazi threat?

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