New York, NY (March 14, 2019)—Tonight, at the New School in New York, the National Book Critics Circle announced the recipients of its book awards for publishing year 2018. The winners include nonfiction recipient Steve Coll for Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan (Penguin Press), Mary Ann Gwinn says, “Told with empathy for all sides, his account is sad, frightening, and moving in its depiction of the human toll of the conflict.”
Ada Limón was awarded the poetry prize for The Carrying (Milkweed), in which Tess Taylor says “The Carrying opens a new chapter in an already beautiful and accomplished oeuvre.” The criticism award was presented to Zadie Smith for Feel Free: Essays (Penguin Press) where Charles Finch says “It feels blazing and whole, with the inward gravitational tug of a star. It survives – to quote Robert Lowell – the rainbow of its will.”
Nora Krug was given the prize in autobiography for Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home (Scribner); where Kate Tuttle says “Krug creates a stunningly effective, often moving portrait of Krug’s memories and her exploration of the people who came before her.” The biography prize went to Christopher Bonanos for Flash: The Making of Weegee The Famous (Henry Holt & Company), where John McWhorter says “Bonanos has written a page-turner about, of all people, a grubby loner scrambling around Manhattan taking pictures of usually humble and often dirtyish goings-on, usually after dark, and with a focus bordering on the compulsive.” Anna Burns won for her novel, Milkman (Graywolf) where Lori Feathers says “as original in its presentation as it is profound in its exposition of the familiar and not so familiar terrors that daily assail its young hero, a woman who faces persistent, insidious predation, both sexual and politically motivated.”
Tommy Orange’s novel, There There (Knopf), was the recipient of the John Leonard Prize, recognizing an outstanding first book in any genre.
Tommy Orange is a graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow, and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Oakland, California.
The recipient of the 2018 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, given to an NBCC member for exceptional critical work, was Maureen Corrigan. Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR's Fresh Air, is The Nicky and Jamie Grant Distinguished Professor of the Practice in Literary Criticism at Georgetown University. She is an associate editor of and contributor to Mystery and Suspense Writers (Scribner) and the winner of the 1999 Edgar Award for Criticism, presented by the Mystery Writers of America. Her book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures was published by Little, Brown in September 2014. Corrigan's literary memoir, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading! was published in 2005. Corrigan is also a reviewer and columnist for The Washington Post's Book World, and has served on the advisory panel of The American Heritage Dictionary. The Balakian Citation carries with it a $1,000 cash prize, endowed by longtime NBCC board member Gregg Barrios.
The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award was Arte Público Press. Arte Público Press is the oldest and largest publisher of Hispanic literature in the United States. Founded 40 years ago by Dr. Nicolás Kanellos, and currently based in Houston, Texas, Arte Público publishes dozens of books by Latino writers each year in both English and Spanish, including titles under its children’s literature imprint, Piñata Books. In 1992, Arte Público began its Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, which seeks to recover and publish lost texts from Latino writers from colonial times to the mid-20th century. Arte Público was the original publisher of Sandra Cisneros’ legendary novel The House on Mango Street. Other authors published by Arte Público have included Helena María Viramontes, John Rechy, Ana Castillo and Luis Valdez. Arte Público’s determination to build bridges, not walls, has immeasurably enriched American literature and culture.
Recipients of the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Awards
Nora Krug, Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home (Scribner)
Christopher Bonanos, Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous (Henry Holt & Company)
Zadie Smith, Feel Free: Essays (Penguin Press)
Anna Burns, Milkman (Graywolf)
Steve Coll, Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan (Penguin Press)
Ada Limón, The Carrying (Milkweed)
The John Leonard Prize
Tommy Orange, There There (Knopf)
The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing
The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
Bios of award recipients:
Anna Burns was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is the author of two novels, No Bones and Little Constructions, and of the novella, Mostly Hero. No Bones, which won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in East Sussex, England.
Christopher Bonanos is city editor at New York magazine, where he covers arts and culture and urban affairs. He is the author of Instant: The Story of Polaroid. He lives in New York City with his wife and their son.
Steve Coll is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars and the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and from 2007 to 2013 was president of the New America Foundation, a public policy institute in Washington, D.C. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and previously worked for twenty years at The Washington Post, where he received a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 1990. He is the author of seven other books, including On the Grand Trunk Road, The Bin Ladens, Private Empire, and Directorate S.
Nora Krug’s drawings and visual narratives have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and Le Monde diplomatique. Her short-form graphic biography, Kamikaze, about a surviving Japanese WWII pilot, was included in the 2012 editions of Best American Comics and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Maurice Sendak Foundation, Fulbright, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and of medals from the Society of Illustrators and the New York Art Directors Club. She is an associate professor at Parsons School of Design in New York and lives in Brooklyn with her family. Krug is the author of the graphic memoir, Belonging.
Ada Limón is the author of Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, Sharks in the Rivers, and Bright Dead Things, a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Books Critics Circle Award. She earned an MFA from New York University, and is the recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New Yorker, the Harvard Review, Pleiades, and Barrow Street. Limón is on faculty of the Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency M.F.A program and the 24Pearl Street Online Program for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She splits her time between Kentucky, California, and New York.
Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW and Swing Time, as well as a novella, The Embassy of Cambodia, and a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. She is also the editor of The Book of Other People. Zadie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. White Teeth won multiple literary awards including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award. On Beauty was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and NW was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Zadie Smith is currently a tenured professor of fiction at New York University and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.