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2020 National Book Festival Highlights: N.K. Jemisin

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Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival! If you love storytelling or are simply curious about the world, you’ve landed in the right place. As a way into this vast — and vastly fascinating — festival celebrating “American Ingenuity,” we offer here a string of highlights that truly illustrate the resilience, intelligence and wit of this year’s authors. Please enjoy, and make sure to explore our full National Book Festival video collection and special limited-time content on the Virtual Festival Platform.

Although N.K. Jemisin’s “The City We Became” (Orbit) is a fantasy novel set in New York City, its message is anything but a fantasy.

Jemisin says in her video recorded for the 2020 National Book Festival: “I think the thing that people will hopefully begin to take from the book, if they want to take anything from it, is that when people work together they are literally able to do just about anything — and that’s the struggle that we’re having right now as a country.”

N.K. Jemisin is a New York Times-bestselling author of “speculative fiction” short stories and novels. In 2018, she became the first author to win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel, for her Broken Earth trilogy. She has also received a Nebula Award, two Locus Awards and a number of other honors.

“The City We Became” is very much a New York story. The author believes that, despite being an enormous city spread out over five boroughs, “New Yorkers look out for each other.” Jemisin was born in Iowa, and she spent a part of her youth in Mobile, Alabama, where, she says, “I grew up in a library. … I literally read my way through the entire library” — an admittedly “small, neighborhood” one.

The author filmed her video exclusively for the Library of Congress. You can see many more fascinating authors on the Virtual Festival Platform, and also see Q&A sessions with select authors. (Go to “Stages” tab and select a “stage.” Click on “Sessions” and select an author.)

The more than 120 authors, poets and illustrators who joined us for the 2020 National Book Festival, our first virtual festival, rose to the challenges of presenting online, and they shared their unique perspectives on this 20th festival’s theme, American Ingenuity.

You are invited to explore the many festival stages in genres such as History & Biography, Poetry & Prose, Fiction, Children and Teens. These author recordings are guaranteed to challenge you to look at life in new ways and inspire you to read their work.

The 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival celebrates its 20th birthday this year. You can get up-to-the-minute festival news, highlights, and other important information by subscribing to this blog. The festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You can support the festival, too, by making a gift now.


  1. As a native of the Chicago area and having visited NYC only as a child, the moods and cultures Jemisin evokes in “The City We Became” are immersive, as well as relatable. It was refreshing (and as a white guy, thought-provoking) to read a book that embraces the viewpoints of BIPOC as normal, which they are. Jemisin’s world-building is wonderful and unique, her villian dangerous and believable, and her characters thoughtful, wounded, powerful, and human. This is one of the best fantasy novels I have read, and I’m glad it was highlighted here and at the NBF.

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