Louise Erdrich, Katherine Boo Win National Book Awards

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Louise Erdrich and her novel The Round House (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers) last night was awarded the National Book Award for fiction. Katherine Boo received the nonfiction award for her Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House). Each award includes $10,000 and a bronze statue.

The National Book Awards ceremony was held at Cipriani, 55 Wall Street, on November 14 as planned. This despite the National Book Foundation office’s building having suffered extensive damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy. The Foundation office is closed until further notice.

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Asked in an interview on the NFB website what was the seed idea for her novel, Erdrich replied:

The immense difficulty of prosecuting crimes of sexual violence on reservations has haunted me for many years, but I didn’t know how to tell the story. I wanted to write it as a suspense novel. How else to include jurisdictional complexity? I didn’t want to bore myself. When my main character, Joe, started talking, I knew I had been waiting for him. A writer’s gift. Even now I miss writing in his voice and miss working on this book.

About The Round House

One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared. While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.

About the Author

Louise Erdrich is the author of fourteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, short stories, children’s books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel Love Medicine won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse was a finalist for the National Book Award. Most recently, The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Erdrich lives in Minnesota and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore.

About Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter will soon become its first female college graduate. But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

About the Author

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Katherine Boo is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a former reporter and editor for The Washington Post. Her reporting has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur “Genius” grant, and a National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. For the last decade, she has divided her time between the United States and India. This is her first book.

Fiction Finalists:

Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group USA, Inc.)

Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King (McSweeney’s Books)

Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown and Company)

Fiction Judges:

Stacey D’Erasmo, Dinaw Mengestu, Lorrie Moore, Janet Peery

Nonfiction Finalists:

Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956 (Doubleday)

Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4 (Knopf)

Domingo Martinez, The Boy Kings of Texas (Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press)

Anthony Shadid, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Nonfiction Judges:

Brad Gooch, Linda Gordon, Woody Holton, Susan Orlean, Judith Shulevitz