Jason Mott resoundingly won the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction with his fourth novel, Hell of a Book. A satirical story of an unnamed writer and his conversations with the physical (or phantom) manifestation of a figment of his imagination, “The Kid”, the novel examined what it means to be Black in contemporary America. A labyrinthine work of fiction, it also grappled with subjects such as family love, discrimination in the workplace, and the follies that are prevalent in the world of publishing. It was a thought-provoking book brimming with insightful and evocative passages and scenes. In this list are some of the most impressionable lines from the book.

Do check out my complete review of this literary work by clicking here.


“It’s a hell of a book. You’ve got a gift for words. You’ve got the ability to say things that others can’t say. You can pull out the things that other people have all trapped up inside of them. And it’s clear you can do it. You hit me in my heart!”

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

“All you really want is for the people around you to be safe. And there’s nobody in this world that you want safety for more than your children. So when you ca’t give that to them, it swells up around your life. It swallows you up. You get afraid to let them leave the house because the monsters of the world might come along and swallow them up. And the thing is that, eventually, that’s exactly what happens. Every child like you in this country has been swallowed up by the monster since before they were even born. And every Black parent in the history of this country has tried to stop that monster from swallowing them up and has failed at it. And every day they live with that.”

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

And let’s face it: in this world that we live in , the fact of the matter is that it’s hard to think of anyone as being real. Everyone is just an image on a screen somewhere. Even the people that we meet and come across in the flesh eventually get reduced to an image on a screen as we interact with them and their social media.

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

“Anything worthwhile takes time. Maybe that’s what time is for: to give meaning to the things we do; to create a context in which we can linger in something until, finally, we have give it something invaluable, something that we can never get back: time. And once we’ve invested the most precious commodity that we will ever have, it suddenly has meaning and importance. So maybe time is just how we measure meaning. Maybe time is how we best measure love.”

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

A voice? What voice? The voice of my people? Always? Every second of every day of my life? That’s what Black people are supposed to be? And the Black condition? What kind of condition is that? You mean as in an existing state of being? Or condition as in a state of health – like an illness?

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

But the thing to know and remember is that you can never be something other than what you are, no matter how much you might want to. You can’t be them. You can only be you. And they’re going to always treat you differently than they treat themselves. They won’t ever know about it – at least, most of them won’t. Most of them will think that everything is okay and that you’re being treated wel enough and that everything is beautiful. Because, I guess for them, all they can imagine is a world in which things are fair and beautiful because, after all, they’ve always been treated fairly and beautifully. History has always been kind to them.

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

“Disappearing was a way out of the cycle of violence. Disappearing was a way not to hate himself when he saw that skin of his in the mirror. Disappearing was a way for him not to hate everyone else that had skin like his. Disappearing way a way out of everythig and he knew that was the resason his mother had taught it to him.”

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

Laugh all you want, but I think learning to love yourself in a country where you’re told that you’re the plague on the economy, that you’re nothing but a prisoner in the making, that your life can be taken away from you at any moment and there’s nothing you can do about it – learning to love yourself in the middle of all that? Hell, that’s a goddamn miracle.

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

I hate to tell you this, but nothing ever sounds right after a certain age, Kid. The older you get, the more you find out it’s all just falling apart, and even worse than that, it’s always been falling apart – the past, the present, the future. They’re interchangeable when it comes to bad news. Tragedy and trauma are the threads that weave generations together.

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

Don’t act so surprised. Your role is one of the great traditions of not only American storytelling but Western storytelling as a whole. The woman is the oracle through which men like me find redemption and self-correction. You’re the mirror in which I’m able to see myself for who I really am and, in doing so, correct the flaws that have been plaguing me from my earliest days.

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

White people didn’t do nothing to you. You ain’t never been a slave. They didn’t sell you and whip you. You can’t hate a whole group of people for somehting their ancestors did. But that’s the thing the niggers can’t never understand. That’s the thing I need him to know. I need him to not be angry like you.

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

Reality is full of bad news. Pick up your phone and check out whatever news sites you frequent and I can guarantee that you’re going to see a laundry list of atrocities. The planet’s melting. People are getting trafficked, and murdered, and molested. It’s just all too much. I figured that particular fact out a long time ago.

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

The lanterns become small suns burning in the distance and I can believe, just for a moment, that all of us people are wandering the universe together as one. One of the truths we often overlook is that we are, all of us, always wandering the universe. We are perpetually hurtling on a rocky raft through the void, taking the tour of the cosmos at 67,000 miles per hour, every second of every day, and yet we still find time to stop and talk over bridges in the late hours of the night and maybe reach out and touch someone else’s hand.

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

I mean, White writers don’t have to write about being White. They can just write whatever books they want. But because I’m Black does that mean that I can only ever write about Blackness? Am I allowed to write about other things? Am I allowed to be something other than simply the color of my skin? I mean, I can’t quote it word for word, but isn’t that what the whole ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was about?

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book

That’s what the Fear really came down to. That’s what all of the other fears were derived from for people of a certain skin color living in a certain place. But it wasn’t just a fear, it was a truth. A truth proven time and time again for generations. A truth passed down through both myth and mandate, from lip-to-lip to legislation. Certain bodies don’tbelong to their inhabitants. Never have, never will again. A persistent, inescapable, and horrific truth known by millions of unsettled bodies. The Fear.

~ Jason Mott, Hell of a Book