Ling Ma, Isaac Butler, Morgan Talty, others win National Book Critics Circle Award

Ling Ma, Morgan Talty, Boris Dralyuk and Isaac Butler are among the winners of the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Awards announced during a ceremony Thursday night at the New School in New York City.

A Los Angeles Times reports says Ma earned the prize in fiction for Bliss Montage: Stories, her debut story collection, filled with offbeat stories that nod to her knack for surrealism: a woman living with all of her ex-boyfriends; friends popping pills that make them invisible; a yeti who seduces a woman to the smooth soundtrack of Janet Jackson.

Talty, according to the outlet, won the John Leonard Prize, awarded to a debut book in any category, for his short story collection, Night of the Living Rez. The linked stories illuminate a harsh reality of life for a young Native American living in the Panawahpskek (Penobscot) Nation of Maine. Talty compassionately explores family and inheritance, poverty, mental illness and drug addiction through a contemporary lens.

Butler received the nonfiction award for The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act, a work that chronicles the history of the influential Method approach to acting as if it were a biography of a concept, beginning with its origin at the turn of the 20th century.

Hua Hsu took home the autobiography award for Stay True: A Memoir, a coming-of-age story that dives deep into the friendship between two Asian American college students as they navigate American culture and build a bond from shared cigarettes and deep conversation. The book explores meaning, belonging and grief.

Beverly Gage won in the biography category for G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century, which drew from never-before-seen sources to create a full portrait of Hoover’s life and career, placing him at the centre of American political history to explore the evolution of governance, political culture and power.

“G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century” was also a finalist for the 43rd Los Angeles Times Book Prize in biography.

A new award this year, the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize, was shared by Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov and translator Boris Dralyuk for the novel Grey Bees

The award for criticism went to Timothy Bewes for “Free Indirect: The Novel in a Post Fictional Age.” 

The poetry winner was Cynthia Cruz for Hotel Oblivion.

Joy Harjo received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Prize committee chair Jacob M. Appel said the award honours “individuals whose own literary works have transformed book culture and also those whose activism and service on behalf of other writers has proven to be of remarkable influence. As a three-term United States Poet Laureate and a leading voice for Native American communities on and off the pages, Harjo embodies both of these legacies. … She stands not only as a literary envoy for indigenous peoples everywhere, but also as the unrivalled ambassador of American poetry.”

The winner of the Toni Morrison Achievement Award, established by the NBCC in 2021 to honour institutions that have made lasting and meaningful contributions to book culture, was the San Francisco-based bookstore and independent publisher City Lights.

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