Novelist Tess Gunty wins National Book Award for fiction

Tess Gunty’s “The Rabbit Hutch,” a sweeping novel set in a low-income housing community in Indiana, has won the National Book Award for fiction.

The nonfiction prize went to Imani Perry’s “South to America,” and Sabaa Tahir’s “All My Rage” won for young people’s literature. In poetry, John Keene was cited for “Punks: New and Selected Poems,” while Argentine-Spanish language author Samanta Schweblin and translator Megan McDowell won for best work in translation for “Seven Empty Houses.”

Winners on Wednesday night each received $10,000. The dinner benefit for the National Book Foundation, which presents the awards, also included honorary prizes for cartoonist Art Spiegelman and Tracie D. Hall, executive director of the American Library Association. It was the first time since 2019 — before the pandemic — that the event was held in person and hundreds, virtually all maskless, gathered at Cipriani Wall Street in downtown Manhattan.

Author/”Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi hosted the ceremony, which also featured taped introductions by Keanu Reeves, Alicia Keys and Jimmy Fallon for nominees in competitive categories.

Outside, striking HarperCollins workers handed out leaflets and buttons — Lakshmi was among those wearing a union button — outlining their differences with the publisher over wages, diversity and union security among other issues. Some 250 entry level and mid-level employees at HarperCollins, the only major New York publisher with a union, began their strike last week. No new talks are currently scheduled.

Perry, a HarperCollins author, made no direct reference to the strike in her acceptance speech, but did cite those who “walk the picket line” as among her inspirations.

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