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Alice McDermott, Jesmyn Ward among nominees for critics awards

Alice McDermott's latest novel has been nominated for

Alice McDermott's latest novel has been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Credit: Jamie Shoenerger

Alice McDermott, a National Book Award winner who was raised on Long Island and graduated from Hofstra University, is a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award for her novel “The Ninth Hour,” set in the Irish Catholic Brooklyn of the early 20th century.

Other finalists announced Monday include Jesmyn Ward’s “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” winner of the National Book Award, for fiction; Roxane Gay’s “Hunger” for autobiography; and Masha Gessen’s “The Future Is History,” winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction.

Author-essayist John McPhee will receive a lifetime achievement award and Carmen Maria Machado, author of the story collection “Her Body and Other Parties,” will be honored for best debut book.

The critics circle chose five nominees in each of six competitive categories: fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, biography, poetry and criticism. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at The New School in Manhattan on March 15.

Other fiction nominees include Mohsin Hamid’s best-selling tale of young lovers who become refugees, “Exit West”; Joan Silber’s “Improvement” and Arundhati Roy’s “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,” her first novel since winning the Booker Prize in 1997 for “The God of Small of Things.”

The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, comprises about 1,000 critics and book review editors.

The complete list of nominees and award winners is below:


Mohsin Hamid, “Exit West” (Riverhead)

Alice McDermott, “The Ninth Hour” (FSG)

Arundhati Roy, “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” (Knopf)

Joan Silber, “Improvement” (Counterpoint)

Jesmyn Ward, “Sing, Unburied, Sing” (Scribner)


Jack Davis, “The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea” (Liveright)

Frances FitzGerald, “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America” (Simon & Schuster)

Masha Gessen, “The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia” (Riverhead)

Kapka Kassabova, “Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe” (Graywolf)

Adam Rutherford, “A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes” (The Experiment)


Caroline Fraser, “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Metropolitan Books)

Edmund Gordon, “The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography” (Oxford)

Howard Markel, “The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek” (Pantheon)

William Taubman, “Gorbachev: His Life and Times” (Norton)

Kenneth Whyte, “Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times” (Knopf)


Thi Bui, “The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir” (Abrams)

Roxane Gay, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” (Harper)

Henry Marsh, “Admissions: Liffe as a Brain Surgeon” (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martins)

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, “The Girl From the Metropol Hotel: Growing Up in Communist Russia” (Penguin)

Xiaolu Guo, “Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China” (Grove)


Nuar Alsadir, “Fourth Person Singular” (Oxford)

James Longenbach, “Earthling” (Norton)

Layli Long Soldier, “Whereas” (Graywolf)

Frank Ormsby, “The Darkness of Snow” (Wake Forest University Press)

Ana Ristović, “Directions for Use” (Zephyr Press)


Carina Chocano, “You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages” (Mariner)

Edwidge Danticat, “The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story” (Graywolf)

Camille T. Dungy, “Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History” (W.W. Norton)

Valeria Luiselli, “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions” (Coffee House)

Kevin Young, “Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts and Fake News” (Graywolf)


Charles Finch


Carmen Maria Machado, “Her Body and Other Parties” (Graywolf)


John McPhee

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