The American Library Association has awarded the 2016 Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press) and Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs, by Sally Mann (Little, Brown). The selections were announced on January 10 at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, in Boston.
On the fiction side, PW called Viet Thanh Nguyen’s debut novel, The Sympathizer an “astonishing first novel” in a starred review. The novel tells the story of a narrator called the Captain, and his two school friends Bon and Man, as they navigate the fall of Saigon and the establishment of the Communist regime in Vietnam in 1975.
In the nonfiction category, Mann’s Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs, also earned a starred review. PW called it a “sensuous and searching memoir” with “vivid, descriptive energy and arresting images [that] will leave readers breathless.”
“Choosing the two winners of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction is no easy task,” said award chair Nancy Pearl, adding that the award committee reviewed hundreds of titles. "The reward for all our hard work," Pearl said, "is that we have found two winners—and four other finalists—that readers won’t be able to put down or soon forget.”
This is the first time the Carnegie Medal winner announcement was made during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, reflecting a new calendar for the awards, with the shortlist announced in October, the winners announced in January, and the popular celebratory reception continuing at ALA Annual Conference each year. With the prestigious Youth Media Awards (YMA) to be announced the following morning, including the Newbery and Caldecott winners, all ALA book and media award announcements will happen within 24 hours at the ALA Midwinter Meeting.
At the reception to be held at the ALA Annual Conference, set for Orlando, June 23-28, 2016, the winning authors will each receive a medal and $5,000. The four finalists will each receive $1,500. Now in its fifth year, the Carnegie Medals have grown quickly and become a prestigious and coveted award adult literary award, and the reception has become a popular event, with the winning authors attending and giving speeches.
In 2014, Anthony Doerr won for his book All The Light We Cannot See (which also received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction), while Bryan Stevenson won for Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Stevenson gave a moving, and timely acceptance speech that had many librarians in attendance buzzing about the best book award acceptance speech they'd ever heard, and went viral after PW published a transcript.