The inaugural Essence Literary Awards took place last Thursday at Le Parker Meridien in New York City. Among the winners were The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson (Unbridled Books) in fiction; and Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf) in memoir. Terry McMillan received a lifetime achievement award and Bishop T.D. Jakes received a “President’s Award.” The event also launched Essence magazine’s Save Our Libraries Campaign.

Today show co-anchor Hoda Kotb and Dr. Ian Smith, creator of The 50 Million Pound Challenge, hosted the event, which drew nearly 300 guests. McMillan, author of eight books, received a Lifetime Achievement award. When she was an undergrad in 1974, she won Essence’s first college essay contest. She is also one of only a few authors who have appeared on the magazine’s cover. Jakes, pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas and author of Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits (Atria) received the President’s Award, which goes to the author whose book best reflects Essence’s editorial mission.

As part of its Save Our Libraries campaign, Essence presented Moriba Jackson, supervising librarian of Harlem’s Countee Cullen branch of the New York Public Library with a donation.

A panel of “influential publishing experts” selected winners in eight categories, and readers voted on for Storyteller of the Year. The list of winners follows:

Fiction:The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson (Unbridled Books)
Memoir:Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)
Inspiration:Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy (Tyndale)
Nonfiction:Supreme Discomfort by Michael Fletcher and Kevin Merida (Doubleday)
Current Affairs:An Unbroken Agony by Randall Robinson (Basic Civitas)
Photography:Daufuskie Island by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe (Univ. of South Carolina Press)
Children’s:Marvelous World by Troy Cle (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)
Poetry:Duende by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf Press)
Storyteller of the year: L.A. Banks, author of The Darkness (St. Martin’s/Griffin) and other books