After losing more than half its board to a heated debate over racial inequities in the publishing world, the National Book Critics Circle said Thursday that it will put its prestigious annual literary awards on hold until it gets its own house in order and attracts more diversity to its board.
“We hope to be in a position to present the NBCC awards for calendar year 2020,” the statement said. “However, we will put aside all reading and deliberation in order to focus on fulfilling and exceeding the action items in our Anti-Racism Pledge and Action Plan.”
The board — or what remains of it — said that group’s vice president of membership, Richard Santos, will immediately begin reaching out to past, current, and potential members for “ideas on how we move forward as an organization and how the NBCC can best support marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ writers, writers from black, indigenous, and other communities of color, and writers of all ages and abilities.”
In addition, Gregg Barrios, a playwright and black board member, has been named to head up a newly formed diversity committee.
Fifteen of the board’s 24 members have resigned since the board’s sole black female member, Ugandan-born writer Hope Wabuke, publicly rebuked the organization for dithering over its response to the Black Lives Matter movement last week.
When a board member blasted Wabuke’s criticisms of the publishing world’s past and present support for black writers, she posted the email on Twitter and said she was through with the organization.
Some board members resigned in support of Wabuke and others, including then president Laurie Hertzel, left in protest of Wabuke’s going public with the dispute.