And the winner is ...
There weren’t a lot of surprises last night in New York at the National Book Awards. Denis Johnson--long considered the presumptive favorite--received the fiction prize for his Vietnam War epic, "Tree of Smoke," while New York Times reporter Tim Weiner took nonfiction honors for his magisterial "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA," and Robert Hass won in poetry for "Time and Materials."
If there was anything unexpected to the evening, it may have been Sherman Alexie’s getting the nod in the young people’s category for his first Y.A. novel, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." According to reports, Alexie himself seemed somewhat astonished, cracking that "I obviously should have been writing Y.A. all along."
Alexie’s win is yet another sign that young adult literature is a genre in full throttle at the moment, with children’s writers and adult writers alike taking advantage of its seemingly boundless potential to accommodate all sorts of stories and ideas. If it’d had this kind of vibrancy when I was a kid, I might have stuck with it a little longer; as it is, I find myself interested in a way I haven’t been before.
David L. Ulin