NBCC Awards Announced

March 13, 2008 | No Comments

Junot Diaz’s best-selling The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has won the 2007 National Book Critic Circle’s Award for Fiction. I’ve yet to read it, so I’ve no idea if it is prize-worthy, though it certainly garnered a lot of press. Another odds-on favorite to win, this time in the autobiography category, was Edwidge Danticat, who, as expected, took home the prize for Brother, I’m Dying. This, I have read and reviewed. In it, Danticat tells the story of the relationship between her father and her beloved Uncle Joseph, who becomes the victim of a bureaucratic customs nightmare when attempting to flee unrest in Haiti and seek sanctuary in the United States. As I said in my review, “Brother I’m Dying pays homage to a remarkably functional family living through remarkably dysfunctional times.”

So, a moving book about remarkable people, it’s true, but, if assessed purely in terms of craft, is it a prize-winner? I’m not so sure. I often wonder if critics are tempted, when judging memoirs or biographies, to recognise and reward, not the effectiveness of the art form, but the tenacity of the human spirit often depicted therein. And if this is so, should they?