The illustrious National Book Awards announced this year’s winners yesterday (Wednesay, Nov. 20th, 2013). A delighted James Mcbride accepted the award in the fiction category for his novel, The Good Lord Bird. Mcbride’s novel centers around the memoirs of a young slave who attempts to avoid danger during pre-Civil War instability and ends up meeting John Brown, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass. Fellow nominees in the fiction category included Rachel Kushner, Jhumpa Lahiri, Thomas Pynchon, and George Saunders.
The Good Lord Bird has garnered quite a bit of praise from various reviewers; Booklist gave the novel a starred review, noting, “dramatizing Brown’s pursuit of racial freedom and insane belief in his own divine infallibility through the eyes of a child fearful of becoming a man, McBride (Song Yet Sung) presents a sizzling historical novel that is an evocative escapade and a provocative pastiche of Larry McMurtry’s salty western satires and William Styron’s seminal insurrection masterpiece, The Confessions of Nat Turner” and the New York Times wrote a review back in August declaring, “McBride — with the same flair for historical mining, musicality of voice and outsize characterization that made his memoir, The Color of Water, an instant classic — pulls off his portrait masterfully, like a modern-day Mark Twain: evoking sheer glee with every page.”
In the non-fiction category, the award went to George Packer for his book, The Unwinding: an Inner History of the New America. Told through the perspective of four different American citizens (a North Carolinian small businessman, an Ohio factory worker, a wealthy billionaire, and a political aide working in Washington D.C.), Packer explores the last forty years of America’s social conditions. The Guardian review praised the novel, saying, “it is a testament to Packer’s talents that The Unwinding is powerful, rather than off-puttingly earnest or just depressing, and that it lingers so long after reading.”
The National Book Award for poetry went to Mary Szybist for her collection of poems, Incarnadine. For a sampling of her poetry and a brief biography, visit the Poetry Foundation’s page on Mary Szybist.