Authors call for cease-fire in Gaza at National Book Awards At one of literature's most prestigious awards ceremonies, nominated authors made a collective call for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Justin Torres wins at National Book Awards as authors call for cease-fire in Gaza

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Some of the biggest names in literature gathered in New York City last night for the National Book Awards. Author Justin Torres won the fiction prize for his novel "Blackouts," but he ceded his time on the stage that he was given to accept the award to invite other authors to join him to call for a cease-fire in Gaza. NPR's Andrew Limbong has more.

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MAT JOHNSON: And this year's National Book Award for fiction goes to "Blackouts" by Justin Torres.

(APPLAUSE)

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: "Blackouts" is an almost experimental novel that's in honor of the lives and achievements of queer people that have been erased from history. But Torres kept his personal thank-you's quick...

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JUSTIN TORRES: Because the writers, we've collectively decided to make a statement.

LIMBONG: ...As a little more than a dozen of his fellow finalists came up on stage and stood behind Aaliyah Bilal, author of the nominated short story collection "Temple Folk," as she made this statement.

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AALIYAH BILAL: On behalf of the finalists, we oppose the ongoing bombardment of Gaza and call for an humanitarian cease-fire to address the urgent humanitarian needs of Palestinian civilians, particularly children.

LIMBONG: It was the most direct and pointed mention of Israel's war against Hamas at the entire evening, which was otherwise business as usual. Actor and "Reading Rainbow" host and executive producer LeVar Burton hosted the proceedings, opening with a pointed joke at the activist group behind the growing calls to remove certain books from public schools.

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LEVAR BURTON: Before we get going, are there any Moms For Liberty in the house?

(LAUGHTER)

BURTON: Moms For Liberty? No? Good. Then hands will not need to be thrown tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

LIMBONG: And there was a special appearance from Oprah Winfrey, who also focused on the rise of so-called book bans.

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OPRAH WINFREY: To ban books is to strangle off what sustains us and makes us better people - connection and compassion, empathy, understanding.

LIMBONG: Other winners include graphic novelist Dan Santat's "A First Time For Everything" for young people's literature, Craig Santos Perez's "From Unincorporated Territory [Amot]" in poetry and "The Words That Remain" by Brazilian writer Stenio Gardel translated by Bruna Dantas Lobato for translated literature. And in nonfiction, Ned Blackhawk won for his book "The Rediscovery Of America: Native Peoples And The Unmaking Of U.S. History," which argues that any telling of American history is incomplete without the stories of Native Americans.

Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

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