The National Book Foundation recently announced that University of Georgia history professor Claudio Saunt was one of five finalists for the National Book Award in the nonfiction category for his new book “Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory.”
Avid Bookshop is hosting Saunt in conversation with Willson Center director Nicholas Allen this coming Thursday, Oct. 22, to discuss the new book and celebrate Saunt’s recognition as a finalist for the National Book Award. The event will be on Zoom from 7-8 p.m., and tickets are available here.
Avid Bookshop is using a pay-what-you-can ticketing style for the event, where attendees can elect to buy an event ticket, a copy of the book or a ticket and book bundle to support Athens’ only independent bookstore. Free tickets are also available.
Saunt’s book centers on the period of what is conventionally called Indian removal, he said. This was the period in the 1830s when the United States began moving Native Americans to what was called Indian territory, mostly located in present-day Oklahoma. Saunt said this removal consisted of the Trail of Tears, when the Cherokee people were moved in 1838, as well as the moving of tens of thousands of other Native Americans.
“Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory,” came out in March, and Saunt originally planned to have the launch party at Avid Bookshop, he said. The event was canceled due to COVID-19, and although Saunt and the bookstore intended to reschedule, they weren’t sure of when to do it.
“When I became a finalist for the National Book Award, we thought that that was as good a reason as any to organize this event,” Saunt said.
Saunt said he was excited to find out he was a finalist for the award because the award isn’t just for history or scholarly books, it’s for all nonfiction. It was gratifying for his work to be recognized in this way, he said.
Allen said in an email that Saunt is one of the leading members of the humanity community at UGA, and that him being selected as a finalist for the National Book Award was a “career defining honor.”
Saunt said he’s looking forward to doing the event with Allen because he’s known him for years, and they’ve worked together before to promote the humanities at UGA. Allen said in addition to the event promoting Saunt’s work, it will also be a good way to showcase the strength of humanities and the arts at UGA.
The book discussion will be a good opportunity to learn about not only a turning point in United States history, but a piece of history that “really hits close to home,” Saunt said.
Georgia, and even Athens, was a center of Indian removal in the 1830s, Saunt said. Several streets in Athens are named after people who had prominent roles in this, such as Wilson Lumpkin. The local significance will hopefully make people interested in learning more about the book, he said.
Allen said people should tune into the event, even if they’re not history or book lovers, because Saunt describes not only the history of the events he writes about, but also their impact on the world today.
“Dr. Saunt tells the story of the United States from a perspective we can all learn from and does so with a clarity and insight that will enrich, and challenge, any reader,” Allen said.