Minnesota writer Louise Erdrich was visibly moved Thursday night when her name was announced as the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction on Thursday night for her novel, “LaRose,” the final book in her justice trilogy. She last won the award in 1984, for "Love Medicine."
"Miigwetch," she told the crowd, thanking them in the Ojibwe language. "I am among such dramatically wonderful novels that this didn't seem possible." Erdrich was up against Ann Patchett, Michael Chabon, Adam Haslett and Zadie Smith for the award. "I'd like to thank my mother, a strong Native woman," Erdrich said. "And my 91-year-old father, the son of immigrants. We are all in this together. It is so important right now, as truth is being assaulted not just in this country, but all over the world. Let us dig into the truth. Let us be fierce and dangerous about the truth. Let us find in that truth the strength to demand that truth from our government."
Minnesota native Hope Jahren, now living in Norway, won in the autobiography category for her memoir, “Lab Girl," but the blizzard that hit New York on Tuesday prevented her from picking up her award in person.
Erdrich and Jahren were among eight writers honored at a ceremony and reception held at the New School in New York City. Other winners include Ishion Hutchinson in poetry for “House of Lords and Commons”; Carol Anderson in criticism for “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide”; Ruth Franklin in biography for “Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life”; and Matthew Desmond in nonfiction for “Evicted.”
Previously announced winners were Margaret Atwood, winner of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, and Yaa Gyasi, winner of the John Leonard Prize for best debut book in any genre.
Atwood charmed the crowd with her brief but fervent acceptance speech. "I am very, very happy to be here," she said. "Because they let me across the border!"
A lifetime achievement award, she said, is a two-edged sword. "Why do I only get one lifetime? Where did this lifetime go?"
The National Book Critics Circle Awards are judged by the NBCC board, a group of 24 professional book critics.