NBCC launches Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize and NBCC Service Award;
Joy Harjo, City Lights receive lifetime achievement awards
New York, NY (January 31, 2023)—Tonight, in a virtual event produced by Wildbound Live, the National Book Critics Circle announced 30 finalists in six categories—autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, general nonfiction, and poetry—for the best books of 2022. Finalists for the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book were also announced, determined by nominations from the organization’s regular members. Other announcements included the winner of the annual prize for a working book critic, two lifetime achievement awards, and the introduction of the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize and NBCC Service Award.
“We’re an all-volunteer organization with a mission that’s simple and sweet: honor outstanding writing and foster a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature,” said NBCC President Megan Labrise.
“This year, we’re excited to introduce two new awards: The Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize and the NBCC Service Award, honoring extraordinary and longstanding service to the organization,” said Labrise, who named past NBCC president Barbara Hoffert as the inaugural NBCC Service Award winner.
The introduction of the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize was made by reading committee chair Tara Merrigan. Named for late NBCC board member Gregg Barrios, the award celebrates the artistic merit of literature in translation in any genre. It seeks to recognize the valuable work of translators in bringing world literature to English-language readers.
“The six books selected by members of the National Book Critics Circle represent an impressive range of genres and subjects, aesthetic styles and languages,” Merrigan says. “We are delighted to be able to highlight such excellent work made available in English by the skill and persistence of six translators.”
The National Book Critics Circle Awards, founded in 1974 at the Algonquin Hotel and considered among the most prestigious in American letters, are the sole prizes bestowed by a jury of working critics and book review editors. The awards for publishing year 2022 will be presented on March 23, 2023 at the New School in New York City, in a ceremony that will be free and open to the public.
The recipient of the 2022 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing is Jennifer Wilson. “In graceful, well-crafted prose enriched by deep understanding of her subject, Jennifer Wilson turns a review of a new translation of an unfinished novel by Alexander Pushkin, ‘Peter the Great’s African,’ into a sophisticated exploration of how the great Russian poet’s personal heritage as the great-grandson of a Black African informed his art and shaped his understanding of what it meant to be Russian,” says prize chair Colette Bancroft.
The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award is Joy Harjo. “Among the illustrious prior winners of the Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award are individuals whose own literary works have transformed book culture and also those whose activism and service on behalf of other writers has proven to be of remarkable influence,” says prize committee chair Jacob M. Appel. “As a three-term United States Poet Laureate and a leading voice for Native American communities on and off the pages, Harjo embodies both of these legacies. Drawing upon the traditions of the Muscogee Nation and the vast landscape of her unbounded imagination, Harjo speaks in a distinctive, indelible language of myth and music. She stands not only as a literary envoy for indigenous peoples everywhere, but also as the unrivaled ambassador of American poetry.”
The recipient of the 2nd Annual Toni Morrison Achievement Award, established by the NBCC in 2021 to honor institutions that have made lasting and meaningful contributions to book culture, is the San Francisco-based bookstore and independent publisher, City Lights. “The impact of City Lights on American literature has been revolutionary,” says Appel, “which may be the highest compliment one can bestow upon an enterprise whose goal since its inception has been to transform both the realm of literature and society beyond. Since its founding in the early 1950s by Peter D. Martin and Lawrence Ferlinghetti—the latter himself a former Sandrof Award honoree—City Lights has introduced American audiences to audacious new voices, inviting us to lunch with Frank O’Hara, wander with Marie Ponsot and howl with Allen Ginsberg. Far more than a press or a bookshop, City Lights shines as a beacon for innovation and justice and as a guiding flare for readers and writers across the globe who dream of a better world.”
National Book Critics Circle Finalists
Publishing Year 2022
Jazmina Barrera, Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes, trans. by Christina MacSweeney (Two Lines Press)
Hua Hsu, Stay True: A Memoir (Doubleday)
Dorthe Nors, A Line in the World: A Year on the North Sea Coast, trans. by Caroline Waight (Graywolf)
Darryl Pinckney, Come Back in September: A Literary Education on West Sixty-Seventh Street, Manhattan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ingrid Rojas Contreras, The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir (Doubleday)
Beverly Gage, G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century (Viking)
Kerri K. Greenidge, The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family (Liveright)
Jennifer Homans, Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century (Random House)
Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman, Metaphysical Animals: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life (Doubleday)
Aaron Sachs, Up from the Depths: Herman Melville, Lewis Mumford, and Rediscovery in Dark Times (Princeton University Press)
Rachel Aviv, Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Timothy Bewes, Free Indirect: The Novel in a Postfictional Age (Columbia)
Peter Brooks, Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative (NYRB)
Margo Jefferson, Constructing a Nervous System: A Memoir (Pantheon)
Alia Trabucco Zerán, When Women Kill: Four Crimes Retold, trans. by Sophie Hughes (Coffee House Press)
Percival Everett, Dr. No (Graywolf)
Jon Fosse, A New Name, trans. by Damion Searls (Transit Books)
Mieko Kawakami, All the Lovers in the Night, trans. by Sam Bett and David Boyd (Europa Editions)
Ling Ma, Bliss Montage: Stories (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Namwali Serpell, The Furrows (Hogarth)
Isaac Butler, The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act (Bloomsbury)
Kelly Lytle Hernández, Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands (Norton)
Joseph Osmundson, Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between (Norton)
Annie Proulx, Fen, Bog, & Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis (Scribner)
Ed Yong, An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us (Random House)
Mosab Abu Toha, Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear (City Lights)
Cynthia Cruz, Hotel Oblivion (Four Way)
David Hernandez, Hello I Must be Going (Pitt)
Paul Hlava Ceballos, banana [ ] (Pitt)
Bernadette Mayer, Milkweed Smithereens (New Directions)
GREGG BARRIOS BOOK IN TRANSLATION PRIZE
Boris Dralyuk’s translation of Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov (Deep Vellum)
Jennifer Croft’s translation of The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk (Riverhead Books)
Fady Joudah’s translation of You Can Be the Last Leaf by Maya Abu Al-Hayyat (Milkweed Editions)
Mara Faye Lethem’s translation of When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Solà (Graywolf Press)
Christina MacSweeney’s translation of Linea Nigra by Jazmina Barrera (Two Lines Press)
Mark Polizzotti’s translation of Kibogo by Scholastique Mukasonga (Archipelago)
JOHN LEONARD PRIZE
Jessamine Chan, The School for Good Mothers (S&S/Marysue Rucci Books)
Jonathan Escoffery, If I Survive You (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch (Knopf)
Zain Khalid, Brother Alive (Grove)
Maud Newton, Ancestor Trouble (Random House)
Morgan Talty, Night of the Living Rez (Tin House)
Vauhini Vara, The Immortal King Rao (Norton)
NBCC SERVICE AWARD
NONA BALAKIAN CITATION FOR EXCELLENCE IN REVIEWING
Lauren Michele Jackson
TONI MORRISON ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
IVAN SANDROF LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
ABOUT THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE
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, and awarded its first set of honors the following year. Comprising more than 600 working critics and book-review editors throughout the country, the NBCC 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 critics and editors from some of the country’s leading print and online publications, as well as critics whose works appear in these publications. For more information about the history and activities of the National Book Critics Circle and to learn how to become a supporter, visit www.bookcritics.org. You can follow the NBCC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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