3 authors named winners of the Science + Literature prizes

NEW YORK (AP) — The National Book Foundation has partnered with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to honor books that marry two categories not always in harmony: technology and the arts.

On Wednesday, the two organizations announced the first winners of the Science + Literature awards, a $10,000 award for books, fiction or nonfiction, “that deepen readers’ understanding of science and technology.”

The winners are “The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease” by Daisy Hernández; “The Radiant Lives of Animals” by Linda Hogan, a mix of poetry and prose; and Rachel Pastan’s “In the Field: A Novel,” based on the life of Nobel Prize-winning cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock.

“These three titles examine the shortcomings of the American healthcare system, humans’ relationship with the natural world, and the legacy of a scientist ahead of her time,” said Ruth Dickey, executive director of the book foundation, in a statement. “We are excited to celebrate these diverse perspectives and inspire conversations about the role of science and technology in our daily lives.”

The awards are part of a three-year, $525,000 grant from the Sloan Foundation aimed at diversifying voices in science and technology writing. The idea was born after Sloan Foundation programmer Doron Weber received an honorary National Book Award in 2018, presented by the National Book Foundation.


Weber told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he was so impressed with the book foundation, which sponsors a wide range of reading and education initiatives, that he thought it would make a ideal partner for an ambitious national effort dedicated to science and technology writing.

“We’ve been looking to expand what we do,” he said. “We felt before that we hadn’t tapped into a wide enough network.”

Sloan has for decades provided grants for hundreds of science-based books, films and theater projects, including Margot Lee Shetterly’s biography “Hidden Figures”, the basis for the film of the same name on the contributions of three black mathematicians to the space program.

Shetterly is a member of the Science + Literature Selection Committee, chaired by Lydia Millet, a 2020 National Book Award finalist for her novel about the environmental disaster, ‘A Children’s Bible’.

The three authors cited Wednesday will participate in public events across the country this spring and summer. On March 3, they will join Saeed Jones, author of the memoir “How We Fight for Our Lives”, for a conversation at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York.

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