Margo Jefferson and Maggie Nelson win National Book Critics Circle Awards

An authors relationship with a transgender artist and a memoir of growing up in an African-American community in Chicago among subjects of books honoured

The winners of the National Books Critics Circle awards for the publishing year 2015 were announced on Thursday evening at the New School in Manhattan.

For fiction, the prize went to Paul Beattys Sellout, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Beattys book follows an unnamed narrator referred to in the book only as Me as he attempts to take a segregation case to the supreme court. The novel received thundering applause from critics when it was published last year, with particular praise given to Beattys wit. In the Guardian, Seth Colter Walls called the book caustic-but-heartfelt work of satire.

Maggie Nelsons The Argonauts won the prize for criticism. A hybrid work published by Graywolf Press to great acclaim last year, The Argonauts examines the writers partnership with the artist Harry Dodge, who is transgender. In a review in the Guardian, Olivia Laing remarked: It is about love and marriage, motherhood, pregnancy, birth and family-making, and because it is a book by Maggie Nelson, it turns every one of these concepts on its head.

The award for memoir went to Margo Jeffersons Negroland. Jefferson, who was a longtime theatre critic at the New York Times, describes her own childhood among middle-class African Americans in Chicago in the book, published by Pantheon. In an interview with Jefferson conducted last fall, the Guardians Steven Thrasher called the book a a powerful historical lens through which to read the current state of respectability politics.

Sam Quinones Dreamland: The True Tale of Americas Opiate Epidemic won the prize for general nonfiction. Published by Bloomsbury in the US, Quinones documents the spread of heroin in middle-class America. Not widely reviewed when it appeared in April 2015, Dreamland went on to be on several best of lists last year. Slates Laura Miller wrote: You wont find this story told better anywhere else, from the economic hollowing-out of the middle class to the greedy and reckless marketing of pharmaceutical opiates to the remarkable entrepreneurial industry of the residents of the obscure Mexican state of Nayarit.

The award for biography went to Charlotte Gordons Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley, published by Random House. In her review of the book for the Guardian, Daisy Hay wrote: The retelling emphasises the extent to which Shelleys life was shaped by her mothers legacy: the point has been made before, but here is underlined in thought-provoking ways.

Finally, Ross Gays Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, won the prize for poetry. At NPR, fellow poet Tess Taylor praised the book: Gays poems burst forth in leggy, unexpected ways, zooming in on legs furred with pollen or soil breast-stroking into the xylem.

Two previously announced awards were also given out. The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Book Reviewing went to the Washington Posts Carlos Lozada, and the Ivan Sandrof lifetime Achievement award went to Wendell Berry.

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