Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie among National Book Critics Award winners

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was among the winners of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Awards, announced Thursday in a ceremony at the New School in New York.

Adichie won the fiction prize for her novel “Americanah,” which tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to the United States to pursue a college education.

The nonfiction prize went to Sheri Fink for “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital,” an account of the patients, staff and families who took shelter in New Orleans’ Memorial Hospital during Hurricane Katrina.

Los Angeles author Amy Wilentz won the autobiography award for her book “Farewell, Fred Voodoo,” an account of her journeys to Haiti covering the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake there. The prize in biography went to Leo Damrosch for “Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World.”

California-raised writer Frank Bidart took the poetry prize for his collection “Metaphysical Dog,” while the criticism award was presented to Italian literary scholar Franco Moretti, for “Distant Reading.”


Earlier, the critics’ group announced winners in three special categories. The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing was awarded to Katherine A. Powers, and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award went to Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, the Texas-born novelist, essayist and poet. A brand new prize, the John Leonard Prize, honoring a first book in any genre, was presented to Anthony Marra for “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.”

Fiction winner Adichie is no stranger to accolades; her second novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun,” about the Biafran war, won the U.K.'s Orange Prize; in 2008, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.

In an interview with The Times in May, the Nigerian-born Adiche said her novel drew heavily on her own experiences living as an African among Americans -- including African Americans.

“I feel as though being African, I can laugh at certain things that maybe if I were African American I wouldn’t,” she said. “I don’t know race in the way an African American knows race… Sometimes it takes an outsider to see something about your own reality that you don’t.”


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