National Book Award

Slaves in the Family

By Edward Ball

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"In 1698, Elias Ball arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, from England to take possession of his inheritance: part of a plantation and twenty-five slaves. Elias and his progeny built a slave dynasty that lasted for 167 years, buying more than a dozen plantations along the Cooper River near Charleston, selling rice known as 'Carolina Gold,' and assembling close to 4,000 African and African American slaves before 1865, when Union troops arrived on the lawns of the Balls' estates to force emancipation.

"In Slaves in the Family, Edward Ball, a descendant of Elias, has written a nonfiction American saga like no other. Part history, part journey of discovery, this is the story of black and white families who lived side by side for five generations -- and a tale of everyday Americans confronting their vexed inheritance together. Using the copious plantation records of his family, supplemented by both black and white oral tradition, Ball uncovers the story of the people who lived on his ancestors' lands -- the violence and opulence, the slave uprisings and escapes, the dynastic struggles, and the mulatto children of Ball slaveholders and 'Ball slaves.' He identifies and travels to a prison in Africa from which his family once bought workers. Most remarkably of all, Ball also locates and visits some of the nearly 12,000 descendants of Ball slaves and reveals how slavery lives on in black and white memory and experience."

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The House of the Scorpion

By Nancy Farmer

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Matteo Alacran was not Born; He was Harvested. His DNA came from El Patron, lord of a country called Opium -- a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt's first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster -- except for El Patron. El Patron loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself. As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patron's power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacran Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn't even suspect. Another title that is excellent on audio!

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2009 National Book Award Winners

The 2009 National Book Awards have been announced. The winners are:


Winner: Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin

Finalists: Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage
Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite
Marcel Theroux, Far North