Queer writer Edmund White was also honored with a medal for distinguished contribution to American letters
Susan Choi has won the fiction prize at the National Book Awards in New York on Wednesday night. The celebrated author won for her fifth novel, Trust Exercise, about teens attending an elite drama school in the south during the 80s which was praised for its bold experimentations with narrative and form.
Trust Exercise beat out Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajarado-Anstine; Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James; The Other Americans by Laila Lalami; and Disappearing Earth by Julie Phillips for the top prize.
During her speech, Choi thanked past last years winner, Sigrid Nunez, for convincing her to sit down and write the book. This book is collaboration more so than any other book Ive written, Choi said. Given what were all facing today I find it an astonishing privilege what I get to do every day. I get to lead a life centered on books and bring other people into that world.
The Guardian called Trust Exercise a masterly study of power and its abuses that touched on themes of consent and its ambiguity in a #MeToo era.
The top prize for nonfiction went to Sarah M Broom for The Yellow House, a touching memoir that tells the history of Brooms family in an impoverished section New Orleans.
Broom accepted the award by acknowledging her mother, who raised 12 children, and thanking her for nourishing and supporting her love for words. I am in this room; and so is my mother, she said.
The evening ceremony took place at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City and was hosted by LeVar Burton, the star of the educational childrens program Reading Rainbow and Star-Trek: Next Generation.