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Throughout his entire career, renowned author Walter Mosley has penned powerful, thought-provoking pieces of work and now the bestselling novelist will be honored for his contributions to the literary world. The National Book Foundation announced that Mosley will be the recipient of its 2020 lifetime achievement award.

The honor is historic as it marks the first time in the nonprofit’s 31-year history that a Black man has received the lifetime achievement medal. Mosley has penned over 60 books that span across an array of genres. His first novel—a mystery book titled Devil in a Blue Dress—was released in 1990, became a bestseller and served as the inspiration for the 1995 film starring Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle. The 1998 television film Always Outnumbered, which starred Laurence Fishburne, was also inspired by one of Mosley’s novels. Mosley has also written several plays and has penned essays and op-eds that have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and other publications. He has garnered several accolades for his work including a Grammy award, an Edgar Award, PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and NAACP Image awards.

The Los Angeles native has been a fierce advocate for diversity in the publishing industry. Nearly 22 years ago, he founded a publishing certificate program at the City University of New York to align students from a range of socio-economic backgrounds with workshops and career development opportunities. “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 narrative works and essays,” Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, said in a statement. “His oeuvre and his lived experience are distinctly part of the American experience. And as such, his contributions to our culture make him more than worthy of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.”

Mosley will officially receive the award during a virtual ceremony on November 18. Past recipients of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters include Toni Morrison, Stephen King and Judy Blume.


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