James McBride Wins National Book Award For Fiction

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“The Good Lord” written by James McBride has won the National Book Award for fiction. The novel which follows a teenage slave joining abolitionist John Brown’s 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry has been praised by judges for containing “a voice as comic and original as any we have heard since Mark Twain.”

The 56 year old author hasn’t expected to win as he was pitted against big names like Thomas Pynchon, Jhumpa Lahiri and George Saunders. With no speech prepared, McBride simply said,

“They are fine writers. But it sure is nice to be here.”

McBride is best known for his best-selling memoir The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother. The Good Lord Bird is his third novel. His first novel, Miracle at St. Anna (2002), was adapted into a 2008 film by Spike Lee.

The other winners, announced at the 64th annual awards ceremony, are:

Non-fiction

George Packer’s The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, which the judges praised for dramatizing “the widening gulf between rich Americans and everyone else.” Packer thanked his subjects, struggling workers, “for trusting me with their stories to illustrate what’s gone wrong with America.”

Young People’s Literature

Cynthia Kadohata’s The Thing About Luck, about a 12-year-old Midwestern girl and her Japanese-American grandparents. The judges praised how it explores “generational and cultural differences, the fragility of life, and the weighty yet cherished ties of family.”

Poetry

Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine which recasts the myth of the Biblical Mary. The judges called it “a religious book for non-believers, or a book of necessary doubts for the faithful.”

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