Joan Silber’s Improvement (Counterpoint), a complex and moving novel about interconnected lives and shared moments of love, loss, guilt and redemption, was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction at a ceremony last night at the New School in New York City. The nonfiction award went to Frances FitzGerald’s The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Simon & Schuster), a penetrating examination of the cultural and political influence of a dynamic strain of American religiosity.
The poetry award went to Layli Long Soldier for Whereas (Graywolf), a work focused on the histories and identities of Native American women. The award for autobiography went to Xiaolu Guo for Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China (Grove), a sweeping chronicle of the author’s impoverished childhood in China.
The biography prize went to Caroline Fraser for Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Metropolitan Books), a book that mined the letters and diaries of the author of the beloved children’s book series, Little House On the Prairie, to better understand its iconic creator.
Carina Chocano took the criticism award for You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks & Other Mixed Messages (Mariner), a collection that interrogates the understanding of gender roles displayed in media and popular culture.
The John Leonard Prize for an outstanding first book went to Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection Her Body and Other Parties (Graywolf). And the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing went to novelist Charles Finch, whose reviews and critical essays are published in the New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and elsewhere.
Legendary New Yorker writer John McPhee, a journalist, author, and journalism professor, was awarded the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award for a life devoted to literature. He is the author of more than 30 books on a dazzling variety of topics from sports to literature and the environment. His first book, A Sense of Where You Are was published in 1965