Last night at the National Book Foundation gala in New York City, novelist Louise Erdrich was named the recipient of the 2012 National Book Award in fiction. Erdrich, whose latest novel is The Round House (Harper, 2012), will receive $10,000.
This is the first National Book Award for Erdrich, 58, who over the past thirty years has authored fourteen novels and a short story collection, three books of nonfiction, and three poetry collections. The Round House, the second installment in a trilogy, follows an Ojibwe boy as he seeks to avenge his mother's rape. Erdrich, who is part Ojibwe, dedicated her award last night to "the grace and endurance of native people."
"This is a book about a huge case of injustice ongoing on reservations," she added. "Thank you for giving it a wider audience."
In nonfiction, Katherine Boo took the prize for her debut, Beyond the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House, 2012). David Ferry, whose latest collection is Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago Press, 2012), won the award in poetry. William Alexander won in the young people’s literature category for his young adult novel Goblin Secrets (Margaret K. McElderry, 2012). Each winner receives $10,000.
The awards were given amid recent discussions among publishers and the National Book Foundation that the annual award—one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the United States, second perhaps only to the Pulitzer—had become too insular, and was in need of expanding its image and scope. Finalists in fiction included such names as Dave Eggers and Junot Diaz; the finalists in nonfiction included Robert Caro's Lyndon Johnson series and the late Anthony Shadid's lauded memoir House of Stone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). Honorary prizes were also given to author Elmore Leonard and longtime New York Times publisher and chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.
Established in 1950, the National Book Awards are given annually for works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction published in the previous year. For more information, visit the National Book Foundation website.