Back in October, author Pat Conroy announced 20 finalists for the 2010 National Book Award in Atlanta, Georgia. The list included a previous National Book Award Winner, two former Finalists, thirteen women--the largest number of women Finalists in a single year in the Awards' history--and six books from small, independent presses.
The Fiction list includes Australian-born Peter Carey (now a U.S. citizen living in New York City); Brooklynite Nicole Krauss; North Carolina native Lionel Shriver, who now divides her time between Brooklyn and London; Baltimore native, now Michigan-based Jaimy Gordon (this is the second year in a row that a Kalamazoo author has been a Fiction Finalist); and Californian Karen Tei Yamashita.
Last night, the winners were announced and according to Publisher's Weekly, "In something of a surprise, Jaimy Gordon’s novel of women, horses and rinky dink racetracks, 'Lord of Misrule' (McPherson & Co.), won the National Book Award for fiction and rocker, singer/songwriter and crowd favorite Patti Smith won the nonfiction award for her powerful memoir, 'Just Kids' (Ecco), a look back on her long friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and life in New York in the 1960s. Kathryn Erskine’s novel 'Mockingbird' (Philomel Books), a vivid excursion into the mind of a 10 year-old with Asperger’s Snydrome, won for Young People’s Literature and poet Terrance Hayes was awarded the poetry prize for 'Lighthead' (Penguin Books)."
The National Book Award is one of America's highest literary honors. According to their website, "On March 16, 1950, publishers, editors, writers, and critics gathered at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City to celebrate the first annual National Book Awards, an award given to writers by writers. The American Book Publisher's Council, The Book Manufacturers' Institute, and The American Booksellers' Association jointly sponsored the Awards, bringing together the American literary community for the first time to honor the year's best work in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. As the Boston Herald reported the following day, 'literary history was indeed in the making. Over a half-century since its inception, the National Book Awards continues to recognize the best of American literature, raising the cultural appreciation of great writing in the country while advancing the careers of both established and emerging writers."
Mike Le is a writer/producer living in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter.