Judy Blume, American Library Association win National Book Critics Circle awards

Lorrie Moore won the prize for fiction on Thursday, while Judy Blume and her longtime ally in the fight against book bans, the American Library Association, were given honorary prizes by the National Book Critics Circle.

Moore, best known as a short-story writer, won the fiction prize for her novel, “I Am Homeless if This Is Not My Home.”

Committee chair David Varno said in a statement that the book is a heartbreaking and hilarious ghost story about a man who considers what it means to be human in a world infected by, as Moore puts it, ‘voluntary insanity.’ “It’s an unforgettable achievement from a landmark American author.”

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Blume was the recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

The committee cited the way her novels including “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” have “inspired generations of young readers by tackling the emotional turbulence of girlhood and adolescence with authenticity, candor and courage.”

It also praised her role as “a relentless opponent of censorship and an iconic champion of literary freedom.”

Judy Blume, author of the 1970 novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” is interviewed at the premiere of a new film adaptation of the novel on April 15, 2023, at the Westwood Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. Blume and the American Library Association were given honorary prizes by the National Book Critics Circle. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

The American Library Association was given the Toni Morrison Achievement Award, established to honor institutions for their contributions to book culture. The committee said the group had a “longstanding commitment to equity, including its 20th century campaigns against library segregation and for LGBT+ literature, and its perennial stance as a bulwark against those regressive and illiberal supporters of book bans.”

Blume, who accepted her award remotely from a bookstore she runs in Key West, Florida, thanked the ALA for “their tireless work in protecting our intellectual freedoms.”

The awards were handed out at a Thursday night ceremony at the New School in New York.

Other winners included poet Safiya Sinclair, who took the autobiography prize for her acclaimed memoir “How to Say Babylon,” about her Jamaican childhood and strict Rastafarian upbringing.

Jonny Steinberg won the biography award for his “Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage,” about Nelson and Winnie Mandela.

Kim Hyesoon of South Korea won for poetry for her “Phantom Pain Wings.”

For translation, an award that honors both translator and book, the winner was Maureen Freely for her translation from the Turkish of the late Tezer Özlü’s “Cold Nights of Childhood.”

Tahir Hamut Izgil won the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book for his “Waiting to Be Arrested at Night: A Uyghur Poet’s Memoir of China’s Genocide.”

The prize for criticism went to Tina Post for “Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression,” and Roxanna Asgarian won the nonfiction award for “We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America.”

Besides Blume and the library association, honorary awards were presented to Washington Post critic Becca Rothfield for excellence in reviewing and to Marion Winik of NPR’s “All Things Considered” for service to the literary community.

The book critics circle, founded in 1974, consists of hundreds of reviewers and editors from around the country.

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