The National Book Award announced this week the winners of this year’s writing prizes, each chosen by more than 50 judges, the majority of whom are also National Book Award judges.
The American Library Association presented the awards to Susan Choi, Julie Sheehan and Erin Luxley (for fiction) and Annabel Lyon (for nonfiction) for their work, respectively.
Lee Smith’s novel Landmark won the literary fiction award, while poets Rita Dove and Tony Hoagland shared the award for poetry.
Two “women’s fiction” books won the fiction prize, each by a different author, again working this year with both half female and half male writers. Choi’s Trust Exercise was written by a fellow fiction writer, Carolyn Lukensmeyer, while Lee Smith’s is by a fiction writer, Roberta Smith. Lyon won with A Chrysalis; Lum Kin Chai, who previously won the poetry award for An Imperfect Exhale, was awarded the prize in poetry for Piercing Aphrodite.
Smith won for a book that most of the panelists referred to as classic, writing about “women of power and withering regret, men clinging to fantasy, and lovers forever captive to their most magnetic instincts.” They collectively referred to Olivier and Hélène, also in the “Women’s Fiction” category, as “a very, very good novel.”
The competition in the “nonfiction” category included seven titles in which more than 50 percent of the writers were women. Lyon’s book, Porcelain, focused on Laos, and Lens, by Evan Osnos, about Turkey and America, were nominated, as were Freewheel, by Lorrie Moore, and Moving Light, by Noam Chomsky.
Sarah Potempa, publisher of HarperCollins, also took home an award for another book in the “fiction” category: Federal Marriage. Potempa won as the sole publisher for best publication of the year.