Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Americanah,' 'Five Days' Lead National Book Awards

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Americanah,' 'Five Days' Lead National Book Awards

Article excerpt

The six National Book Critics Circle winners are diverse and wide- ranging in scope and readers looking for recommendations likely will find something of interest.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Americanah" (Knopf) won the fiction prize; Sheri Fink's "Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital" (Crown) won for best nonfiction.

The annual awards ceremony, held Thursday at the New School in Manhattan, was packed with writers, book critics, publishers, agents and students.

Ms. Adichie whooped with joy as she took the stage to receive her award. She expressed her happiness at being a contender for the same prize as Alice McDermott, who was her writing teacher in graduate school. Ms. McDermott was a finalist for her novel "Someone" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

"Americanah" is a story of love and migration that balances race politics with humor. The protagonist is a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to America, where she makes a name for herself blogging about race from the perspective of a "non-American black." It's love that calls her back to Nigeria.

Ms. Fink's nonfiction winner, "Five Days at Memorial," reconstructs five days of power outages, storm surges and chaos at New Orleans' Memorial Hospital following Hurricane Katrina. Ms. Fink, a physician and investigative journalist, explores the decision that exhausted doctors and nurses made to euthanize their sickest patients. Ms. Fink asked: "Do exceptional times call for an exception to our moral rules?"

Anthony Marra's novel "A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon" (Hogarth) won the first John Leonard Prize. Named after a founding member of the National Book Critics Circle and former editor of The New York Times Book Review, the prize honors an author's first book in any genre. Mr. Marra's novel, set in war-torn Chechnya, was chosen in a democratic vote among more than 600 members of the organization. …

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