3 authors named winners of Science + Literature awards

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

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

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

“These three titles contemplate gaps in the US healthcare system, humans’ relationships to the natural world, and the legacy of a scientist ahead of her time,” Ruth Dickey, the book foundation’s executive director, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to celebrate these diverse perspectives, and inspire conversations around the role of science and technology in our everyday 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 originated after Sloan Foundation programmer Doron Weber received in 2018 an honorary National Book Award, presented by the National Book Foundation.

Weber told The Associated Press during a recent interview that he had been so impressed by the book foundation, which sponsors a wide range of reading and educational initiatives, that he thought it would make an ideal partner for an ambitious, nationwide effort dedicated to science and technology writing.

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

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

Shetterly is a member of the Science + Literature selection committee, chaired by Lydia Millet, a National Book Award finalist in 2020 for her novel about environmental disaster, “A Children’s Bible.”

The three authors cited Wednesday will participate in public events around 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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