The 25th Annual Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Awards were announced on Wednesday during a private ceremony in New York City. Jill Leovy took home the first place nonfiction prize for Ghettoside: a True Story of Murder in America (Spiegal & Grau), while the first-place prize for fiction went to Mia Alvar for In the Country (Knopf/Vintage).
Presenting the first place nonfiction award, Wild author Cheryl Strayed called Ghettoside "illuminating, heart-breaking, socially important, and a page-turner." Strayed also cited statistics from Leovy's book, pointing out the "invisible reality of homicide" that affects 40% of African American men in the U.S.
Accepting the award, which includes a $30,000 purse, Leovy thanked her colleagues, her editor Chris Jackson, and B&N. "I was a crime writer; I spent years writing stories nobody read," she said. "It's very important to be heard."
Eleanor Brown, author of a prior Discover selection, The Weird Sisters, presented the fiction award to Alvar. In accepting the award, Alvar thanked B&N for being "a great friend to new authors."
George Hodgman, whose Bettyville (Viking) won the second place nonfiction award, said, in accepting his $15,000 prize, that he can now pay his taxes. Following the laughter that ensued, the author added: "Books are the most reliable vehicle for understanding people different from ourselves."
Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt (Random House) took third place for nonfiction, an honor that comes with a $7,500 cash prize. Accepting the award, she said her a book sent her on "a journey of great discovery and great love."
In second place for fiction was Angela Flournoy with The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). The author thanked her agent Jenna Johnson, her publisher, and B&N, for supporting new writers with this award.
Sophie McManus took the third place fiction award for The Unfortunates (FSG); accepting the award she said the Discover program "supports multiplicity, big ideas, and human complexity."
This year's fiction judges were Brown, Ben Fountain, and Thrity Umrigar. The nonfiction judges were Strayed, Scott Anderson, and Candice Millard. The six finalists for the Discover Awards were chosen from 46 titles handpicked by B&N booksellers.