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LeVar Burton replaces Drew Barrymore as National Book Awards host

Actor, author and literary advocate LeVar Burton is the new host of the 74th National Book Awards ceremony and benefit dinner, which will take place on Nov. 17 in New York.

“I’m a big believer in the power of the written word,” Burton said in a statement from the National Book Foundation, whose previous celebrity hosts for the event have included Nick Offerman and Padma Lakshmi. “It’s an honor to return as host of the biggest night for books, especially in a moment when the freedom to read is at risk and literature both needs and deserves our recognition and support.”

The announcement comes after the foundation rescinded Drew Barrymore’s initial invitation to host. Barrymore received criticism in September when she resumed filming her daytime television show, The Drew Barrymore Show, amid the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA strikes. The WGA strike ended on Sept. 27, though the SAG-AFTRA strike is still ongoing.

Burton is a celebrated figure within the literary community. For 23 years, the Roots and Star Trek: The Next Generation actor served as the host of the PBS Kids series Reading Rainbow, which taught reading skills to children, and has authored books such as The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm. Burton is also outspoken against book banning and censorship. He served as an executive producer on the documentary The Right to Read and was the Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week 2023.

“Burton’s unique and contagious passion for books has inspired countless readers,” Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, said in a statement. “This year—more than ever before—books are at risk, and we are tremendously proud to have a champion like Burton celebrate authors, translators, and readers everywhere as the host of the 2023 National Book Awards.”

The National Book Awards, whose finalists have been announced, is seen as one of the most prestigious literary honors in the country. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to literature across fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature and young people’s literature. The ceremony will also feature two additional award presentations: the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, to Rita Dove and Paul Yamazaki respectively.

Burton previously hosted the awards ceremony in 2019. Oprah Winfrey will also appear as a special guest and give remarks this year.

“We are honored to have LeVar Burton—a longtime friend and ally of the National Book Foundation—join us to celebrate the power of stories,” Dickey stated.

In other news – Avril Lavigne and Tyga split

Avril Lavigne and Tyga called it quits again after briefly rekindling their romance over the summer, Us Weekly can confirm. “Avril and Tyga broke up a while ago,” a source exclusively tells Us. “There was nothing specific that happened, their relationship had simply run its course.”

There is “no bad blood between them whatsoever,” the insider says, adding that while “it was a clean breakup” Lavigne, 39, and Tyga, 33, “haven’t spoken since because of their busy schedules.” Read More

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