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National Book Critics Circle Awards Announced Their Last Year Winners

On March 23 the National Book Critics Circle announced the recipients of its book awards for publishing year 2022. Each year, the National Book Critics Circle presents awards for the finest books published in English in six categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Poetry, and Criticism.

Ling Ma won the fiction award for the collection Bliss Montage: Stories (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Committee chair Anita Felicelli remarked on how the book “portrays the sometimes-startling indignities of race and immigrant experience, and the challenges of being a body that is going through the human condition. Whether she’s writing about yetis or mothers, Ma pulls us into a world where everything has been called into question, where even the genre in which she works her literary magic is not always clear.”

Ling Ma is a writer hailing from Fujian, Utah, and Kansas. She is the author of the novel Severance, which received the Kirkus Prize, a Whiting Award, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and the story collection Bliss Montage, which received the Story Prize. She lives in Chicago with her family.

Isaac Butler won the nonfiction award for The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act (Bloomsbury), a chronicle of Stanislavski’s system for acting. Committee chair Ruben Quesada called it an “astounding intellectual and social history that poses intriguing lines of inquiry about identity politics and dramatizes the sparkling contradictions between character, self-perception, and public perceptions that enabled a stunning transformation - before the era of the super-blockbuster.”

Timothy Bewes won the criticism award for Free Indirect: The Novel in a Postfictional Age (Columbia University Press). Writing for the NBCC website, prize judge Jennie Hann noted, “while Bewes illustrates the limitations of traditional approaches to the study of the novel, he somehow finds a way to transcend them. The result is a densely packed volume that erupts with insight on every page. Bewes has produced a work for the ages - an intervention in critical theory that will forever change the way we read fiction.”

The winner for autobiography was Hua Hsu for Stay True: A Memoir (Doubleday). Committee chair Heather Scott Partington called it a “clear-eyed and vulnerable exploration of platonic friendship and lifelong loss, describing how Hsu’s account of a college-age friendship “demonstrates how earnest teens seek to define themselves in dichotomies, and how it’s our routines that create our identities.”

The biography award went to Beverly Gage, author of G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century (Viking). “In this astounding biography, Gage has miraculously untangled those contradictions and our own paradoxical national story involving American anxieties over security, masculinity, and race,” said committee chair Elizabeth Taylor, noting that “with propulsive energy and elan . . . Gage weaves revelations from new archival discoveries and nuanced historical interpretations.”

The winner for poetry was Cynthia Cruz for Hotel Oblivion (Four Way Books). Committee chair Rebecca Morgan Frank observed the poet’s “curation of carefully staged snapshots of inquiry,” in which emerge such questions as: “What is a body and how can it possibly contain us? How does a poem move through the fragments of memory, knowledge, and images we each contain?”

Click here for the complete list of awards.

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.

Source: NBCC announcement on


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