Unveiling the Literary Triumph: Justin Torres Takes Home National Book Award for "Blackouts" (2023)


In a dazzling culmination of literary excellence, Justin Torres emerged victorious at the 74th National Book Award ceremony, claiming the fiction prize for his groundbreaking work, "Blackouts." This genre-defying novel, celebrated for its exploration of erasure and queer history, captivated both critics and readers alike. Let's delve into the highlights of this momentous event and the profound impact of "Blackouts."

The Award Ceremony's Political Turn

As the curtains fell on the National Book Award ceremony, a group of writers seized the spotlight with a joint statement calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. While this unexpected political turn gripped the audience, it was Justin Torres who stood at the forefront, receiving the final award of the night and using the platform to shed light on crucial global issues.

Literary Advocacy Against Book Bans

Hosted by the illustrious LeVar Burton, the ceremony echoed a resounding call against book bans and censorship. Oprah Winfrey, a literary powerhouse in her own right, passionately advocated for the freedom of diverse voices in literature. Her poignant words resonated, emphasizing the pivotal role books play in fostering connection, compassion, empathy, and understanding.

Justin Torres' Stirring Acceptance Speech

In a moment of raw emotion, Justin Torres, a beacon for the LGBTQ+ community, eloquently expressed the significance of his award. As a gay man receiving recognition for a novel exploring self-acceptance, Torres conveyed a powerful message of inclusivity and the universal right to a fulfilling life.

Diverse Winners Across Categories

The National Book Foundation honored a spectrum of literary achievements, spanning nonfiction, translated literature, young people's literature, and poetry. Notable winners included Ned Blackhawk for "The Rediscovery of America," Stênio Gardel for "The Words That Remain," Dan Santat for "A First Time for Everything," and Craig Santos Perez for "from unincorporated territory [åmot]."

Lifetime Achievement Recognition

Rita Dove, the trailblazing poet, received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, marking a lifetime of poetic brilliance. Paul Yamazaki, principal buyer at City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, earned the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

Navigating Controversy: The Cease-Fire Call

Amidst the celebration, the ceremony faced a touch of controversy when writers called for a cease-fire in Gaza. While some sponsors opted out, the call for humanitarian action received applause, highlighting the intersection of literature and global affairs.


The 74th National Book Award ceremony was a testament to the enduring power of literature. Justin Torres' "Blackouts" not only secured its place in literary history but also became a platform for advocating important social causes. As we celebrate the diverse voices and genres honored, we are reminded once again of the profound impact literature can have on shaping perspectives and fostering dialogue.

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