National Book Awards go to 'The Round House' and 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers'

The National Book Awards were given to writers Louise Erdrich and first-time author Katherine Boo in the fiction and nonfiction categories, respectively, while William Alexander and David Ferry were awarded the young people's literature and poetry prizes.

Dawn Villella/AP
Writer Louise Erdrich took home the National Book Award fiction prize for 'The Round House.'

Writer Louise Erdrich, author of "The Round House," and "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" author Katherine Boo captured the big prizes at the National Book Awards this year, with Erdrich taking home the prize for fiction and Boo capturing the nonfiction award.

Erdrich's novel tells the story of a boy of Ojibwe descent who struggles to come to terms with the rape of his mother on a reservation in North Dakota. "You've heard of paint by number?," wrote Monitor fiction critic Yvonne Zipp, commenting on the novel's powerful language. "Erdrich paints word by word." (Check out the entire Monitor review here.) During her acceptance speech, Erdrich, who is also of part Ojibwe descent, spoke briefly in the Ojibwe language during her acceptance speech before using English to dedicate her fiction prize to "the grace and endurance of native people."

"This is a book about a huge case of injustice ongoing on reservations," Erdrich said, according to the New York Times. "Thank you for giving it a wider audience."

The author also thanked her daughters.

Boo's book focuses on Annawadi, a slum in India located near the airport in Mumbai, and its residents, and was Boo's debut work. Monitor reviewer Terry Hong called the book "an unforgettable true story, meticulously researched with unblinking honesty." (Check out the entire Monitor review here.)

"I find myself like Mitt Romney the other night, without a speech," the author quipped, according to the New York Daily News. "If this prize means anything, it is that small stories in so-called hidden places matter because they implicate and complicate what we consider to be the larger story, which is the story of people who do have political and economic powers."

Author William Alexander took the young people's literature award for his novel "Goblin Secrets," which follows a young boy who searches for his actor brother in a country where choosing that profession is illegal.

In his speech, Alexander referred to his book's themes of it being forbidden to pretend to be someone you're not.

"The way things are, are not the only possible way they can be,” Alexander said, according to the New York Times. “Stories are the first way we figured that out."

Writer David Ferry took home the poetry prize for his collection "Bewilderment." Ferry told the audience that the only way he had been able to capture the award was because he was older than his competitors.

"My only hope was a preposterous pre-posthumous award," he said, according to the New York Times.

Winners for each prize receive a small statue and $10,000 each.

Other nominees for the fiction prize included Dave Eggers' "A Hologram for the King," "The Yellow Birds" by Kevin Powers, "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" by Ben Fountain, and "This is How You Lose Her" by Junot Diaz.

Nonfiction contenders included "The Boy Kings of Texas" by Domingo Martinez, "House of Stone" by Anthony Shadid, "Iron Curtain" by Anne Applebaum, and "The Passage of Power" by Robert A. Caro.

The awards ceremony for the National Book Awards, which was held for the sixty-third year, was held at Cipriani in New York. Planning beforehand was complicated by Hurricane Sandy and the damage the storm inflicted on the area, including water damage which occurred in the National Book Award offices.

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