09:22 AM

Double UHCL alumnus is invited to be National Book Award panelist

alumnus book judge

Each year, the National Book Awards recognizes outstanding authors in five categories, and the award, says University of Houston-Clear Lake double-alumnus Keaton Patterson, is second in prestige only to a Pulitzer Prize.

Patterson should know — the award was established in 1936 by the American Booksellers Foundation. Patterson, the lead bookseller at Brazos Bookstore, known as Houston’s oldest independent bookstore, has been invited to be on the panel of judges.

“I was asked by the National Book Foundation to be on the panel of judges, which consists of writers and critics,” said Patterson. “In the last 10 years, they have included independent book sellers on the panel. I am lucky and very honored to be chosen to be a judge. The panel I’m on is pretty stunning.”

Patterson said the books are submitted by publishers and fall into five categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translation and young adult literature. “I’m helping to judge for the fiction category,” he said. “I don’t know what publishers will submit in advance, but any book published between December 2019 and November 2020 is eligible. Publishers can submit as many books as they would like.”

His love of books and literature goes way back, Patterson said, and when he was choosing which university to attend, he knew he wanted one with a strong literature program. “I already knew some of the literature professors at UH-Clear Lake from the local writing scene,” he said. “(Professor Emeritus of Literature) John Gorman was a professor I knew before going to UHCL. He was a mentor to me and one of the deciding reasons I went to UHCL.”

He said he was lucky to have learned from so many great literature professors at UHCL. “I had (Professor of Literature) Elizabeth Klett during my master’s program,” he said. “She conducted a vigorous debate class and introduced me to a lot of writing that I wasn’t aware of, especially from the 1800s. Fortunately for me, she’s a regular at the Brazos Bookstore and we’ve continued a friendship.”

Patterson received his Bachelor of Arts in Literature in 2008, and his Master of Arts in Literature in 2011 from UHCL.

“It’s a tremendous honor to have one of our graduates be invited to judge these awards, particularly on a panel that includes luminaries like Roxane Gay, Cristina Henriquez, Laird Hunt and Rebecca Makkai,” said Klett. “It speaks volumes about Keaton’s reputation in the literary world, and given what a wonderful student he was during his time at UHCL, I can confirm that the honor is well-deserved."

Patterson said that the National Book Awards were highly coveted and in his experience, it’s the one general readers seem to pay attention to the most. “The winners will be announced in November,” he said. “I’ll be reading a lot of these books before they come out.”

Like many businesses, the Brazos Bookstore is operating online to protect customers from the COVID-19 virus. “When life gets back to normal, I’ll be back to being a career bookseller,” he said. “I believe strongly in the power of books.”

Read more about UHCL’s Literature program online.