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Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Awards

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The 2022 National Book Critics Circle Awards

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Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Anthony Veasna So and Clint Smith are among this year’s seven winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards for work published in 2021, announced Thursday during a virtual awards ceremony hosted by the Organization of American Book Critics.

Jeffers won the Fiction Award for The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois, her debut novel about black history and coming of age in the South.

“It’s a total shock,” Jeffers said, covering his mouth in disbelief and wiping tears from his eyes as Jane Ciabattari, chair of the Fiction Committee, announced her name. “I didn’t mean to be cute, I just wanted to wear a t-shirt.”

Jeffers tearfully thanked the “esteemed Georgia women of my maternal line,” including her mother and late sister; the historians and writers “who provided the spine for this book”; WEB Dubois, “whose spirit I hope has blessed this book”; and Oprah Winfrey for selecting the novel for her book club. “[She] spoke my name with grace and kindness and completely changed my life for the better.”

The John Leonard Prize, which passed away in December 2020, was awarded for a first book presented for his posthumous collection of short stories “Afterparties”. Following a community of Cambodian-Americans living primarily in California’s Central Valley, the book explores reincarnation, the inherited trauma of the Khmer Rouge era, queerness, and the intricacies of family life. The judges praised “Afterparties” for its “power, originality and good humor” and offered their condolences. “NBCC joins So’s loved ones and readers in celebrating his work and mourning his loss.”

His sister Samantha So Lamb accepted the award on behalf of So. “After my brother’s death [the team at Ecco] really wrapped around us, including me, my family,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion. “My brother is a superstar, our team made sure of that. I am grateful that my brother was able to share his voice and uplift Cambodian Americans and LGBTQ communities before he passed.”

Smith received the nonfiction award for How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America, a work that explores the legacy of slavery and its lasting impact on US history.

“When I was writing this book, I wanted to try to write a book that I needed when I was 16 and in my American history class,” Smith said in his speech. “I think of 16-year-old Clint sitting in this American history class today, and I think of my grandfather’s grandfather, who was born a slave. And I’m also thinking of Toni Morrison, who we called tonight and who has always been on my mind and in my heart.”

The Poetry Prize went to Diane Seuss for frank: sonettes, a deeply personal collection that explores the author’s life and her quest for some semblance of “beauty or relief.” Rebecca Donner won the Biography category for All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler. The focus is on Donner’s great-grandaunt, Mildred Harnack, an American who was executed by the Nazis for leading an underground resistance group in Germany during World War II.

Jeremy Atherton Lin took home the autobiography award for Gay Bar: Why We Went Out, a transatlantic tour of the gay bars that shaped the author’s queer identity, weaving memoir, criticism and history together. Melissa Febos won the Critique category for Girlhood, a collection of stories about the values ​​that shape girls and the women they become. The judges called it an “accurate, vivid critique of what it means to grow up as a woman.”

Author and literary critic Merve Emre and writer and distinguished USC professor Percival Everett were also honored during the event as recipients of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, respectively. The Cave Canem Foundation was also honored, receiving the first Toni Morrison Achievement Award.

The full list of finalists:

autobiography
Hanif Abdurraqib, “A Little Devil in America: Notes on Praising Black Achievement”
Jeremy Atherton Lin, “Gay Bar: Why We Dated”
Rodrigo Garcia, “A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes: Memoirs of a Son of Gabriel García Márquez and Mercedes Barcha”
Doireann Ní Ghríofa, “A Ghost in the Throat”
Albert Samaha, “Concepcion: The Destiny of an Immigrant Family”

biography
Susan Bernofsky, “The Little One’s Psychic: The Life of Robert Walser”
Keisha N. Blain, “Until I’m Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Lasting Message to America”
Rebecca Donner, “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler”
Mark Harris, “Mike Nichols: One Life”
Alexander Nemerov, “Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York”

criticism
Melissa Febos, “Girl Time”
Jenny Diski, “Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?: Essays”
Jesse McCarthy, “Who Pays Atonement For My Soul?: Essays”
Mark McGurl, “Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon”
Amia Srinivasan, “The Right to Sex: Feminism in the 21st Century”

fiction
Joshua Cohen, “The Netanyahus”
Rachel Cusk, “Second Place”
Sarah Hall, “Burntcoat”
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois”
Colson Whitehead, “Harlem Shuffle”

nonfiction
Patrick Radden Keefe, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
Joshua Prager, The Family Roe: An American Story
Sam Quinones, “The Littlest of Us: True American Stories and Hope in the Era of Fentanyl and Meth”
Clint Smith, “How the Word Is Passed On: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America”
Rebecca Solnit, “Orwell’s Roses”

poetry
BK Fischer, “Reception”
Donika Kelly, “The Renunciation: Poems”
Rajiv Mohabir, “Cutlish”
Cheswayo Mphanza, “The Rinehart Frames”
Diane Seuss, “Frank: Sonnets”

John Leonard Prize
Ashley C. Ford, “Someone’s Daughter: A Memoir”
Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, “My Monticello: Fiction”
Torrey Peters, “Detransition, Baby”
Larissa Pham, “Pop Song: Adventures in Art and Intimacy”
Anthony Veasna So, “Afterparties: Stories”
Devon Walker-Figueroa, “Philomath: Poems”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2022-03-17/2022-national-book-critics-circle-award-winners-announced Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Awards

Caroline Bleakley

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