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Louise Erdrich wins National Book Critics Circle fiction award, her 2nd, for ‘LaRose’

Louise Erdrich snagged her second fiction award from

Louise Erdrich snagged her second fiction award from the National Book Critics Circle, for "LaRose." Credit: Harper

More than 30 years after winning a National Book Critics Circle award for her first novel, “Love Medicine,” Louise Erdrich has won again. “LaRose,” the tale of two Ojibwe families linked by tragedy, took the NBCC fiction prize Thursday night at the New School in New York.

One of the most celebrated authors in the country, Erdrich based “LaRose” on a true story she heard years ago about a man who accidentally shot a boy and then gave up his own son to be raised by the grieving parents.

Canadian writer Margaret Atwood accepted the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her many short stories, poems, children’s books, works of nonfiction and 16 novels.

Atwood’s classic dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” (1985) has enjoyed a dramatic spike in sales since Donald Trump was elected president, and the work has been adapted for a new TV series that will debut April 26.

The other NBCC winners announced last night include:

Nonfiction: “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” by Matthew Desmond. “Evicted” describes poor people in Milwaukee struggling to find and keep a place to live in a real estate market and legal system stacked against them. Desmond, a sociologist at Harvard University, was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2015.

Biography: “Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life,” by Ruth Franklin. “The Lottery” shocked New Yorker readers when it first appeared in 1948, but Franklin’s biography demonstrates that Jackson’s career included much more than that single famous short story.

Autobiography: “Lab Girl,” by Hope Jahren, whose book blends science writing with the story of her career as a geobiologist.

Poetry: “House of Lords and Commons,” by Ishion Hutchinson, a Jamaican poet who teaches at Cornell University. His collection was praised by the chair of the NBCC poetry committee for “tracing the landscapes of memory, childhood and his native Jamaica.”

Criticism: “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide,” by Carol Anderson. This work of cultural criticism about the subtle function of racism in America grew from an essay that Anderson published in The Washington Post in 2014.

Two award winners who had been previously announced in January accepted their honors Thursday night, too:

Yaa Gyasi accepted the John Leonard First Book Prize for “Homegoing” (Knopf), her novel about the descendants of two half-sisters born in Ghana’s coastal Fanteland in the mid-1700s. Michelle Dean, whose criticism appears regularly in the Guardian, the New Republic and other publications, accepted the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

The NBCC is an organization of nearly 1,000 reviewers and book section editors. The finalists and winners were chosen by the group’s 24-person board.


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