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National Book Awards presented to Sigrid Nunez, Jeffrey C. Stewart and others

Isabel Allende received a lifetime achievement award, and a work of translated literature won a prize for the first time.

Sigrid Nunez, who wrote

Sigrid Nunez, who wrote "The Friend," won the 2018 National Book Award in fiction. Photo Credit: Marion Ettlinger

The National Book Award, one of the country's most prestigious literary prizes, was presented Wednesday to a contemplative novel about a woman and a Great Dane.

The evening's fiction award went to "The Friend" by Sigrid Nunez, a novel about  a woman who takes in a 180-pound dog from a friend who has died; Apollo becomes the vehicle for the narrator to process her grief. In her review of the novel for Newsday, Marion Winik called it a "dog book" that is "more elegant and intellectual than warm and fuzzy." Nunez, who lives in New York, is the author of several novels, including "Salvation City" and "The Last of Her Kind," and a memoir of Susan Sontag, "Sempre Susan."

Jeffrey C. Stewart's "The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke" won the National Book Award for nonfiction. The book is a biography of the gay African-American man who is considered the father of the Harlem Renaissance, the cultural flowering of the 1920s. Stewart is a professor of black studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The poetry award went to "Indecency," a collection by St. Louis poet Justin Philip Reed.

For the first time, a National Book Award was presented to a work of translated literature. "The Emissary" by Yoko Tawada, translated from Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani, is a novel set in a Japan that cuts itself off from the world in the wake of a terrible disaster. 

The award for young people's literature went to "The Poet X," the debut novel by New York slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo, a child of Dominican immigrants. The novel is about a young Harlem girl who discovers in neighborhood poetry slams a way to better understand her mother.

The 69th National Book Awards were presented at a ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in Manhattan; the emcee was actor Nick Offerman of television's "Parks and Rec." In addition to the other awards, a lifetime achievement award was presented to author Isabel Allende ("The House of the Spirits," "Eva Luna"), a bestselling Chilean writer who lives in California.

Since 1950, the National Book Awards have been given by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to "celebrate the best literature in America." Winners receive $10,000.

Past recipients include Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Philip Roth, Flannery O'Connor, Maxine Hong Kingston, Alice Walker, Patti Smith and Louise Erdrich.

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