National Book Critics Circle (New York)

Africa: National Book Critics Circle Announces Award Winners for Publishing Year 2013

press release

Photo: Chimamanda/Facebook
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

New York — Tonight, at the New School in New York, the National Book Critics Circle announced the recipients of its book awards for publishing year 2013.

The winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s audacious novel “Americanah” (Alfred A. Knopf), a love story, immigrant’s tale and acute snapshot of our times; and Sheri Fink’s “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” (Crown), an extraordinary reconstruction of the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina.

Frank Bidart was awarded the poetry prize for “Metaphysical Dog” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), which continues his life-long exploration of the big questions. The criticism award was presented to Franco Moretti for “Distant Reading” (Verso), which proposes boldly unorthodox methods for studying literature.

Amy Wilentz’s “Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti” (Simon & Schuster) was given the prize in autobiography; it is a gritty, surprising memoir based on years of reporting from Haiti. The biography prize went to Leo Damrosch for “Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World” (Yale University Press), a spellbinding life of a complicated, contradictory subject.

Anthony Marra’s novel “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” (Hogarth) was the debut recipient of the John Leonard Prize, established in 2013 to recognize an outstanding first book in any genre. Named to honor the memory of founding NBCC member John Leonard, the prize is uniquely decided by a direct vote of the organization’s nearly 600 members nationwide, whereas the traditional awards are nominated and chosen by the elected 24-member board of directors. The Leonard Prize carries with it a $500 cash prize, generously donated by longtime NBCC member Linda Wolfe.

The recipient of the 2013 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing was Katherine A. Powers, contributor to many national book review sections, including the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and the Barnes and Noble Review. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the editor of “Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J. F. Powers, 1942–1963.” For the second time in its 27-year history, the Balakian Citation carries with it a $1,000 cash prize, generously endowed by NBCC board member Gregg Barrios.

The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award was Rolando Hinojosa-Smith. At 84, Hinojosa-Smith is the dean of Chicano authors, best known for his ambitious Klail City Death Trip cycle of novels. He is also an accomplished translator and essayist, as well as a mentor and inspiration to several generations of writers. A recipient of the 1976 Premio Casa de las Americas, Hinojosa-Smith is professor of literature at the University of Texas, Austin, where he has taught for nearly three decades.

Founded in 1974, the National Book Critics Circle Awards are given annually to honor outstanding writing and to foster a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature. The awards are open to any book published in the United States in English (including translations). The National Book Critics Circle comprises nearly 600 critics and editors from leading newspapers and magazines providing coverage of books.

Recipients of the National Book Critic Circle Awards for 2014

Poetry
Frank Bidart, “Metaphysical Dog” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Criticism
Franco Moretti, “Distant Reading” (Verso)

Autobiography
Amy Wilentz, “Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti” (Simon & Schuster)

Biography
Leo Damrosch, “Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World” (Yale University Press)

Nonfiction
Sheri Fink, “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” (Crown)

Fiction
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Americanah” (Knopf)

NBCC 2014 Winner Bios

Frank Bidart (b. 1939)
Frank Bidart is the author of numerous books of poetry, including “Watching the Spring Festival” (2008) and this year’s recipient for the award in poetry, “Metaphysical Dog” (Farrar, Straus, Giroux). A formidable figure in American letters, Bidart has been previously a finalist for the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize nominee. He teaches English at Wellesley College and lives in Cambridge, MA.

Franco Moretti (b 1950)
Franco Moretti is the Dorothy C. and Laura Louise Bell Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Stanford University, where he also founded the Center for the Study of the Novel and the Literary Lab. A pioneer of the digital humanities and the use of quantitative methods imported from the social sciences, Moretti is the author of seven books, including most recently “The Bourgeois (2013)” and this year’s recipient of the award in criticism, “Distant Reading” (Verso).

Amy Wilentz (b. 1954)
Amy Wilentz is the author of four works of nonfiction, including “I Feel Earthquakes More Often Than They Happen: Coming to California in the Age of Schwarzenegger” (2006) and this year’s recipient of the award in autobiography, “Farewell Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti” (Simon & Schuster). A winner of the Whiting Writers Award, the PEN Martha Albrand Non-Fiction Award, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award, she has contributed to numerous magazines and is a long-time contributing editor at The Nation. She teaches in the Literary Journalism program at the University of California at Irvine and lives in Los Angeles.

Leo Damrosch (b. 1941)
Leo Damrosch is Ernest Bernbaum Research Professor of Literature at Harvard University. He is the author of ten books on literary and historical subjects, including “Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius” (2005), a National Book Award finalist, and this year’s recipient of the award in biography, “Jonathan Swift” (Yale University Press). He lives in Newton, MA.

Sheri Fink
Sheri Fink is the author of this year’s recipient of the award in nonfiction, “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” (Crown). Fink’s reporting has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Magazine Award, and the Overseas Press Club Lowell Thomas Award, among other journalism prizes. A former relief worker in disaster and conflict zones, she received her M.D. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She lives in New York.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (b. 1977)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author of three novels, “Purple Hibiscus” (2003), “Half of a Yellow Sun” (2006), and “Americanah” (Knopf), the recipient of this year’s award in fiction. A native of Nigeria, Adichie has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (2007) and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2008). She divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

Anthony Marra
Anthony Marra is the New York Times bestselling author of “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.” It was selected as one of the ten best books of 2013 by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, New York Magazine, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal. He is the winner of the Whiting Award and the Pushcart Prize, and currently teaches at Stanford University.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE

The National Book Critics Circle, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1974 at New York’s legendary Algonquin Hotel by a group of the most influential critics of the day, and awarded its first set of honors the following year. Comprising nearly 600 working critics and book-review editors throughout the country, the NBCC annually bestows its awards in six categories, honoring the best books published in the past year in the United States. It is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the publishing industry. The finalists for the NBCC awards are nominated, evaluated, and selected by the 24-member board of directors, which consists of critics and editors from some of the country’s leading print and online publications, as well as critics whose works appear in these publications. For more information about the history and activities of the National Book Critics Circle and to learn how to become a supporter, visit http://www.bookcritics.org

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