Times Announces Winners of Annual Book Awards
The first full-scale biography of Daniel Boone in more than 50 years, which sifts through the myths surrounding Boone to reveal a sympathetic and surprisingly well-educated man, was among seven books that won Los Angeles Times Book Prizes on Thursday evening in a ceremony here.
Other winners of the 1993 prizes, which come with a $1,000 cash award, include a UCLA professor’s examination of the contemporary Mexican-American experience, a volume of poems in which AIDS is the persistent metaphor and the fictional tale of an adoption battle over a Cherokee girl.
A special award honoring the first published work of fiction by a promising young writer went to the novel “Love (Enter),” so named for the computer access code that the main character uses. The author, Paul Kafka, is a descendant of Franz Kafka and an accomplished ballet dancer.
“It feels pretty great, especially being recognized in your home town,” said John Mack Faragher, author of “Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pio neer,” which won the prize for biography. A Yale University historian who grew up in Long Beach and Redlands, Faragher said Friday that he had been stunned by the mail he has received since the book was published.
“People want the past to answer questions they have about themselves, about their folks, about their communities,” Faragher said. “I think historians in general have alienated a popular audience by becoming too specialized, technical, monographic. Biography is always about the folks.”
The book prizes are given annually for books published in English by living authors from Aug. 1 to July 31. Committees of authors who are not employed by The Times judge the contest. The winners will receive their awards at a ceremony at the Los Angeles Central Library on Oct. 29.
At that time, The Times will also announce the winner of the Robert Kirsch award, presented each year to a living author whose home or focus has been the West and whose body of work is judged to deserve recognition. Kirsch, who died in 1980, was a book critic for The Times and a novelist, editor and teacher.
The 1993 book prize winners, announced at a private reception for publishers at the Mark Hotel in Manhattan, fall into seven categories:
The general fiction prize went to “Pigs in Heaven” by Barbara Kingsolver, described by a Times reviewer as “a story of disconnection and coming together” that resumes the story begun in Kingsolver’s first novel, “The Bean Trees,” about a white woman who becomes a mother to an abandoned Cherokee girl.
In “Pigs in Heaven,” the girl and her adoptive mother confront the attempt of a young Cherokee lawyer to reclaim the girl for the Cherokee Nation. The Times praised the book’s timeliness in examining the rights of adoptive and biological parents and the issue of jurisprudence in tribal matters.
The prize for poetry went to “My Alexandria,” the third volume of poems by Mark Doty, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize. Although the poems ponder such themes as impermanence and doom, The Times called them “redemptive . . . rather than depressive,” as well as honest and unsentimental.
The history prize went to “New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery,” in which Anthony Grafton, a Princeton historian, analyzes how Europeans’ discovery of America influenced European thought, unsettling the intellectual and cultural foundations of the Renaissance.
In “Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer,” Faragher studied the reminiscences of family descendants gathered by 19th-Century historians. In relying on the memories of ordinary people, he found the myth-making about Boone no less significant than the true story.
The prize for science and technology went to “Fuzzy Logic,” by Daniel McNeill and Paul Freiberger, which examines a form of technology that boosts computer intelligence by making it more “human.” According to the authors, U.S. business and academia ignored the technology, fuzzy logic, in favor of traditional logic, even though it had been developed in the United States.
McNeill is a writer living in Los Angeles. Freiberger is a technology writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Mexican-Americans: The Ambivalent Minority” won the prize in the current interest category. In it, the author, Peter Skerry of UCLA, argues that U.S. culture sends recent Mexican immigrants mixed signals that are “tutoring Mexican-Americans to define themselves as a victimized group that cannot advance without the help of racially assigned benefits.”
In “Love (Enter),” an obstetrics intern in New Orleans spends nights between deliveries writing to three friends he knew in Paris five years earlier when he first discovered love. The Times described it as “an epistolary love story.” Kafka lives in Bethesda, Md., and is thinking about joining a dance company while he continues to write.