Book Critics Award Winners: Nonfiction Winner was Tom Zoellner for “Island on Fire: The revolt that led to the abolition of slavery in Jamaica.”

From a New York Times story by Alexandra Alter headlined “National Book Critics Circle Names 2020 Award Winners”:

“Hamnet,” a novel by Maggie O’Farrell that imagines the death of Shakespeare’s 11-year-old son during the bubonic plague, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

Founded in 1974, the National Book Critics Circle is made up of more than 600 literary critics and book review editors in the United States. The organization’s annual awards, which it typically gives out in the spring to works published the previous year, are unusual in that book critics, rather than authors or academics, select the winners….

Raven Leilani won the John Leonard Prize, which recognizes a debut author, for her novel “Luster,” about a young Black woman who works in publishing and moves in with her lover, an older married man, and his family.

The award for nonfiction went to the journalist Tom Zoellner for “Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire,” an account of the 1831 revolt that led to the abolition of slavery in Jamaica….

The poet Cathy Park Hong won the prize in autobiography for “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning,” an essay collection that explores race, culture and her experiences as a Korean American woman and writer….

The award for biography went to Amy Stanley’s “Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World,” which examines the life of a 19th-century Japanese woman.

This year’s other honorees include Nicole Fleetwood, who won the criticism award for her book “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration”; francine j. harris, who was awarded the poetry prize for her collection, “Here Is the Sweet Hand”; and Jo Livingstone, a culture staff writer at the New Republic, who won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award went to the Feminist Press, which was founded 50 years ago and has published such authors as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Anita Hill, Grace Paley and Barbara Ehrenreich, as well as members of the activist punk band Pussy Riot. In a judge’s citation, Michael Schaub, the committee chair, said the Feminist Press lived up to its mission statement, which includes publishing “insurgent and marginalized voices from around the world to build a more just future.”

Alexandra Alter writes about publishing and the literary world. Before joining The Times in 2014, she covered books and culture for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she reported on religion, and the occasional hurricane, for The Miami Herald.

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