Announcing the 2019 Award Winners



Contact: Beth Parker, Beth Parker PR,

Laurie Hertzel, NBCC President,


New York, NY (March 12, 2020)—Tonight, the National Book Critics Circle announced the recipients of its book awards for publishing year 2019.

The winners include nonfiction recipient Patrick Radden Keefe for Say Nothing: The True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Doubleday). Walton Muyumba says, “Keefe’s murder mystery political history, Say Nothing, is about independence and partition, colonial hang ups and post-colonial dreams, Ulster Loyalist Protestant nationalism and Irish Republican Catholic radicalism.”

Morgan Parker was awarded the poetry prize for Magical Negro (Tin House), of which Hope Wabukesays, “Morgan Parker’s effortless versatility with language in Magical Negro is a wondrous and immersive experience. Here is a poet who reminds us of what language can be—innovative and truthful in its rhythmic constructs of meaning.”

The criticism award was awarded to Saidiya Hartman for Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Stories of Social Upheaval (W.W. Norton), for which Walton Muyumba says, “Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments moans sensually and philosophically, adding bright, round, gorgeous newness to the extended ring shout of the African American critical tradition.”

Chanel Miller won the prize in autobiography for Know My Name: A Memoir (Viking); Marion Winik says, “Miller’s detailed description of her sexual assault and its aftermath, the years of her life between the rape and the sentencing, lays bare the ironies, injustices, and cruelties of the way our society and judicial system deal with sexual violence.” 

The biography prize went to Josh Levin for The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth (Little, Brown), about which judge Elizabeth Taylorsays “The “welfare queen” meme was built on a myth that Josh Levin takes to its gnarly, contradictory origins in his lucid and engaging The Queen, a feat of investigative reporting matched with a deep understanding of history.”  

Edwidge Danticat won for her short story collection, Everything Inside (Knopf), for which Michael Schaub says “There are no forced happy endings, no unearned deliverances. The world, she seems to say, is unrelentingly harsh, which makes the rare moments of joy her characters experience all the more precious. Everything Inside is a stunning book, the best of Danticat’s remarkable career.”


Sarah M. Broom’s memoir, The Yellow House (Grove), was the recipient of the John Leonard Prize, recognizing an outstanding first book in any genre. Sarah M. Broom is a trained journalist and author. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine and elsewhere. In 2016, She received the prestigious Whiting Award for Creative Nonfiction, which allowed her to finish her first book, THE YELLOW HOUSE (Grove Press), which won the National Book Award in November 2019. Broom received her undergraduate degree in anthropology and mass communications from the University of North Texas before earning a master’s degree in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley. She began her writing career as a newspaper journalist working in Rhode Island, Dallas, New Orleans and Hong Kong (for TIME Asia). Broom also worked as an editor at O, The Oprah Magazine for several years. Broom also worked extensively in the nonprofit word, including as Executive Director of the global nonprofit, Village Health Works, which has offices in Burundi and New York. She taught nonfiction in Columbia University’s creative writing department. She is a native New Orleanian, the youngest of twelve children. She lives in New York City.

The recipient of the 2019 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, given to an NBCC member for exceptional critical work, was Katy Waldman. Waldman is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Previously, she was a staff writer at Slate, where she wrote about language, culture, and politics, and hosted the Slate Audio Book Club podcast. She is the winner of a 2018 American Society of Magazine Editors award for journalists younger than thirty. Katy was born in Washington, DC and lives in Brooklyn. The Balakian Citation carries with it a $1,000 cash prize, endowed by longtime NBCC board member Gregg Barrios.

The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award was Naomi Shihab Nye. Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1952, the daughter of a Palestinian refugee father and an American mother, and raised in Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas. She is a poet, novelist and songwriter who has dedicated her career to teaching poetry, advocating for peace across the world and fighting discrimination against Arab Americans. Her books include Different Ways to Pray (1980), Hugging the Jukebox (1982), Red Suitcase (1994) and The Tiny Journalist (2019). In 2019, she became the first Arab American to be named the Young People’s Poet Laureate. She lives in San Antonio.

Because of COVID-19, the ceremony originally planned for this evening at the New School was cancelled. The NBCC Board plans to honor the winners and finalists at a gala in New York City on September 12, 2020.

Recipients of the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Awards


Chanel Miller, Know My Name: A Memoir (Viking)


Josh Levin, The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth (Little, Brown)


Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (W.W. Norton)


Edwidge Danticat, Everything Inside (Knopf)


Patrick Radden Keefe, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Doubleday)


Morgan Parker, Magical Negro: Poems (Tin House)

The John Leonard Prize

Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House: A Memoir (Grove)

The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

Katy Waldman

The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

Naomi Shihab Nye

Bios of award recipients:

Edwidge Danticat is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, The Farming of Bones, The Dew Breaker, Create Dangerously, Claire of the Sea Light, and Everything Inside. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, Best American Essays 2011, Haiti Noir and Haiti Noir 2. She has written seven books for children and young adults: Anacaona, Behind the Mountains, Eight Days, The Last Mapou, Mama’s Nightingale, Untwine, My Mommy Medicine, as well as a travel narrative, After the Dance. Her memoir, Brother, I’m Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography.  She is a 2009 MacArthur fellow, a 2018 Ford Foundation “The Art of Change” fellow, and the winner of the 2018 Neustadt International Prize and the 2019 St. Louis Literary Award.

Saidiya Hartman received a BA from Wesleyan University and a PhD from Yale University. She was a professor in the Department of English and African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (1992–2006), prior to joining the faculty of Columbia University, where she is currently a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. She is the former director of the Institute for Research on Gender and Sexuality at Columbia University and was a Whitney Oates Fellow at Princeton University (2002), a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library (2016–2017), and a Critical Inquiry Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago (2018). In addition to her books, she has published articles in journals such as South Atlantic Quarterly, Brick, Small Axe, Callaloo, The New Yorker and The Paris Review.

Patrick Radden Keefe is an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker magazine and the author of the New York Times bestseller Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, as well as two other books: The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream, and Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping. He writes investigative narrative nonfiction on a range of subjects. Patrick started contributing to The New Yorker in 2006. He received the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing in 2014 and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016. Say Nothing received the Orwell Prize for Political Writing in 2019 and was selected by Entertainment Weekly as one of the “10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Decade.”  Keefe grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts and went to college at Columbia. He received master’s degrees from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, and a JD from Yale Law School. In addition to The New Yorker, his work has appeared in The New York Review of BooksThe New York Times MagazineSlate, and other publications. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the New America Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.  He lives in New York.

Josh Levin is the author of The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind An American Myth, the never-before-told story of Linda Taylor, America’s original “welfare queen.” Levin is also Slate’s national editor and the host of “Hang Up and Listen”, a weekly sports podcast that he co-hosts with Stefan Fatsis. Before that, Levin was an intern at the Washington City Paper. He’s also freelanced for the AtlanticSports IllustratedGQMen’s Health, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Play: The New York Times Sports Magazine. Levin graduated from Brown University with degrees in computer science and history. He was born and raised in New Orleans, and currently lives in Washington, D.C.

Chanel Miller is a writer and artist who received her BA in Literature from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She lives in San Francisco, California.

Morgan Parker is a poet, essayist, and novelist. She is the author of the poetry collections Magical Negro (Tin House 2019), There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House 2017), and Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night (Switchback Books 2015); and a young adult novel, Who Put This Song On? Her debut book of nonfiction is forthcoming from One World. Parker is the recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, winner of a Pushcart Prize, and has been hailed by The New York Times as “a dynamic craftsperson” of “considerable consequence to American poetry.”


The National Book Critics Circle was founded in 1974 at New York’s legendary Algonquin Hotel by a group of the most influential critics of the day. Comprising 750 working critics and book-review editors throughout the country, including student members and supporting Friends of the NBCC, the organization annually bestows its awards in six categories, honoring the best books published in the past year in the United States. It is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the publishing industry. The finalists for the NBCC awards are nominated, evaluated, and selected by the 24-member board of directors, which consists of editors and critics from the country’s leading print and online publications. For more information about the history and activities of the National Book Critics Circle and to learn how to become a member or supporter, visit Follow the NBCC on Facebook and on Twitter (@bookcritics).