James McBride won the National Book Award for fiction Wednesday for The Good Lord Bird, about a young slave in the 1850s who meets and travels with abolitionist John Brown.
The annual awards, presented by the National Book Foundation, honor American authors for works published over the past year in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature.
The nonfiction award was won by George Packer for The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.
The poetry award was won by Mary Szybist for Incarnadine.
Poetry “is what some describe as soul-making; I count myself among them,” said Szybist, in her acceptance speech. “Speaking differently is what I aspire to.”
The young people’s literature award was won by Cynthia Kadohata for The Thing About Luck. Other finalists in the category were Kathi Appelt for The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp; Tom McNeal for Far Far Away; Meg Rosoff for Picture Me Gone; and Gene Luen Yang for Boxers & Saints.
Other fiction finalists were Rachel Kushner for The Flamethrowers; Jhumpa Lahiri for The Lowland; Thomas Pynchon for Bleeding Edge; and George Saunders for Tenth of December.
Other nonfiction finalists were Jill Lepore for Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin; Lawrence Wright for Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief; Alan Taylor for The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832; and Wendy Lower for Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields.
Other finalists in the poetry category were Frank Bidart for Metaphysical Dog ; Lucie Brock-Broido for Stay, Illusion ; Adrian Matejka for The Big Smoke; and Matt Rasmussen for Black Aperture.