Black Excellence: Walter Mosley Becomes The First Black Man To Receive National Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement Medal

by Duke Magazine

Renowned author Walter Mosley has achieved an historic feat.

According to AP News, he will become the first Black man to receive the National Book Award’s lifetime achievement medal.

Known for his best-selling novels that span from science fiction to mystery genres, Mosley is the mastermind behind titles like “Twelve Steps Toward Political Revelation,” “Down the River Unto the Sea,” and “Devil In a Blue Dress.”

Positive review has been alluded to his work of many years, and is the recipient of many awards like the Henry prize for short stories, a Grammy for his liner notes in Richard Pryor’s “…And It’s Deep Too!” anthology, and an Edgar Award for the best mystery novel.

Mosley will receive the National Book Award’s lifetime achievement honor which will make him the first Black man to win the award in the organization’s 32-year history. He’s also no stranger to the organization, having served on the Foundation’s board of directors.

However, Mosley feels it has taken so long for his work to receive the award due to his primary genre, crime fiction, not normally being considered on the compilation of best books.

While he doesn’t see himself as just a crime novelist, Mosley is not privy to the fact that his acclaimed mystery series which follows the life of LA private detective Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins has made an impact on the world. Mosley’s focus, however, has nothing to do with crime, but rather more to do with showing a more comprehensive view of Black men in the U.S., specifically Black heroes.

“Mosley is undeniably prolific, but what sets his work apart is his examination of both complex issues and intimate realities through the lens of characters in his fiction, as well as his accomplished historical works and essays,” said National Book Foundation Executive, Lisa Lucas. “His oeuvre and his lived experience are distinctly part of the American experience. And such his contributions to our culture make him more than worthy of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.”

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