*Author James McBride’s novel The Good Lord Bird won the fiction prize at the 64th annual National Book Awards, announced at a ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.
The novel follows a young slave in the mid-1800s who joins up with radical abolitionist John Brown, disguises himself as a girl for his own safety and eventually participates in the famous 1859 raid on the army depot at Harpers Ferry, which helped ignite the Civil War.
McBride is best known in Hollywood as the author of the 2002 novel The Miracle at St. Anna, which was adapted into a 2009 film of the same name by Spike Lee.
The nonfiction prize went to George Packer for The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. Packer, a New Yorker writer, surveyed recent American history to explain how the old understanding among Americans — that everyone would have a job and a purpose in life — had unraveled.
The winner of the Young People’s Literature award was Cynthia Kadohata for The Thing About Luck. It’s the story of two Japanese-American children who live in the Midwest and have to help their grandparents harvest the wheat crop when their parents have to travel unexpectedly to Japan. Along the way, they must navigate young love, generational clashes and the challenge of harvesting wheat.
MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski hosted the event, which attracted 700 guests and was carried live on C-SPAN.