NEW YORK — Two weeks after Barack Obama's barrier-breaking election, Annette Gordon-Reed won the $10,000 National Book Award for nonfiction with "The Hemingses of Monticello" (Norton), a history of the family of Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's slave and the mother of several of his children.
Gordon-Reed offers a bold shift of perspective, Scott McLemee said in a Bloomberg review. For the first time, Jefferson is one part of the Hemingses' story, rather than vice versa.
Peter Matthiessen, 81, won the fiction award for "Shadow Country," a reworking of three books he published in the 1990s.
Matthiessen rewrote and compressed portions of his novels about the murderous Florida sugar-cane farmer Edgar J. Watson — "Killing Mister Watson," "Lost Man's River" and "Bone by Bone" — into a single 892-page volume published by the Modern Library.
Judy Blundell won in young people's literature for "What I Saw and How I Lied" (Scholastic). Ive has written well over a hundred books, she said of her career as a writer-for-hire. This is the first one I put my name on." In poetry, Mark Doty won for "Fire to Fire" (HarperCollins).
The awards were announced Wednesday night at a dinner at Manhattan's Cipriani restaurant on Wall Street.