Women Academics Named Finalists for National Book Critics Circle Awards

nbcc-feature-thumbThe finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards have been announced. There are 30 finalists, five in each of six categories including fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, biography, criticism, and poetry. The winners of the National Book Critics Awards will be presented in New York City on March 13.

Among the 30 finalists are books by 15 women. Nine of the 15 women finalists have affiliations with higher education in the United States.


(L to R) Top row: Jesmyn Ward, Amy Wilentz, Linda Leavell, Alice McDermott, Ruth Ozeki, and Sheri Fink.
Bottom row: Lucie Brock-Broido, Denise Duhamel, and Carmen Gimenez Smith.

Jesmyn Ward was nominated in the autobiography category for her book Men We Reaped: A Memoir (Bloomsbury). The book tells the stories of five young men in her life who died over a five-year period. Ward, who is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama, won the 2011 National Book Award for fiction for her novel Salvage the Bones that told the story of a family in the days before and after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Ward holds a master of fine arts degree from the University of Michigan.

Amy Wilentz is a finalist in the autobiography category for her book Farewell Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti (Simon & Schuster). The book relates the author’s experiences in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. Wilentz teaches in the literary journalism program at the University of California at Irvine. She is the former Jerusalem correspondent for The New Yorker and a long-time contributing editor of The Nation.

Linda Leavell is professor emerita at Oklahoma State University. She is a finalist in the biography category for her book Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Moore was a modernist poet who lived from 1887 to 1972. Professor Leavell has been conducting research on Moore for three decades.

Alice McDermott is a finalist in the fiction category for her novel Someone (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). The book chronicles the life of a woman born in Brooklyn in the early twentieth century. Professor McDermott has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize. Her novel Charming Billy won the 1998 National Book Award for fiction. She is the Richard A. Macksey Professor for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Ruth Ozeki was chosen as a finalist in the fiction category for her book A Tale for the Time Being (Viking Books). The novel concerns a writer in Canada who discovers a box that had washed ashore among the debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami. The contents include a diary written by a Japanese teenager telling the story of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Ozeki is a native of New Haven, Connecticut, and graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has accepted an appointment as the Elizabeth Drew Professor of Creative Writing at Smith College, effective in 2015.

Sheri Fink is the author of Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Crown Publishers). The book, nominated in the nonfiction category, tells the story of a hospital in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Fink’s article on the subject, published in The New York Times Magazine, won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. Dr. Fink is a senior fellow with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. She holds a medical degree and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Lucie Brock-Broido is the director of poetry in the School of Fine Arts at Columbia University. Previously, she taught at Bennington College, Harvard University and Princeton University. She is a finalist in the poetry category for her collection Stay, Illusion (Alfred A. Knopf).  A native of Pittsburgh, Brock-Broido holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. She earned a master of fine arts degree from Columbia University.

Another finalist in the poetry category is Denise Duhamel for her collection Blowout (University of Pittsburgh Press). A native of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Duhamel is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston. She earned a master of fine arts degree at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Duhamel teaches creative writing at Florida International University in Miami.

A third finalist in the poetry category is Carmen Gimenez Smith, who teaches in the creative writing program at New Mexico State University. She is being honored for her poetry collection Milk and Filth (University of Arizona Press). Smith is the author of three previous poetry collections and the 2010 memoir Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else (University of Arizona Press). Smith is the editor-in-chief of the literary journal Puerto del Sol.

Update: Amy Wilentz won the award in the autobiography category and Sheri Fink won the award for nonfiction.

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