Watch President Biden award Colson Whitehead, Amy Tan their National Humanities Medals today.
Today, President Joe Biden will award 12 Americans a National Humanities Medal at the White House. Dr. Jill Biden, a woman of letters, will watch on, as can you via a live stream beginning at 4:30 pm EDT.
The medals, awarded in conjunction with National Medals of Arts, are intended to reward people whose work has:
deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history or literature, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources.
The 2021 winners (awarded this year) include:
Amy Tan, of 1989 bestseller The Joy Luck Club as well as The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Saving Fish from Drowning, The Valley of Amazement, and several children’s books.
Ann Patchett, who described the general gist of her novels to the White House as “A group of strangers are thrown together by circumstance and form a society … That’s it.”
Colson Whitehead, whose 2016 instant classic Underground Railroad won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Carnegie Medal for Fiction. He is also the author of The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, and the Harlem Trilogy, the second book of which, Crook Manifesto, will publish this year.
Henrietta Mann, a Cheyenne woman and academic whose work has focused on building Native American education, and whose extremely enjoyable master’s thesis was on bird imagery in Jane Eyre. (“The fact that the tree will no longer serve as a retreat for birds is a foreshadowing of burned Thornfield Hall, which will no longer shelter Jane and Rochester, whose love flourishes there.”)
Poet Richard Blanco, who delivered the 2013 Inauguration Day poem, “One Today,” for President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony.
Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, which chronicled his work as a public interest lawyer, and was made into a film.
Biographer Walter Isaacson, who came up through the Washington Post, has written books about the lives of Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, and—currently in the works—Elon Musk.
Tara Westover, whose 2018 memoir Educated was a bestseller—the child of Mormon doomsday preppers.
Academic Earl Lewis, the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies, and Public Policy at the University of Michigan.
Academic Johnnetta B. Cole, the first African-American president of Spelman College, and former director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.
Native America Calling, a call-in radio show that aims to connect tribal and non-tribal Americans.
The ceremony will also recognize Sir Elton John, Vera Wang, Jose Feliciano, Julia Louis Dreyfuss, and Gladys Knight.
Tune in live on your laptop at 4:30 pm EDT here.